When deciding to hire a full-service marketing agency, there a few things a small business owner must keep in mind. First and foremost, they must clearly define their goal. Are you looking for an Advertising Agency or more likely, a Full-Service Marketing Agency?
The question itself begs another. What is the difference? Our friends over at Marketing Professionals concisely clarify advertising as “just one component, or subset, of marketing. Public relations, media planning, product pricing and distribution, sales strategy, customer support, market research and community involvement are all parts of comprehensive marketing efforts.” So, a full-service marketing agency is one that can deliver all of those components for a customer.
Who needs a Marketing Agency?
Before we answer that, lets discuss who doesn’t. Many larger brands elect to have their marketing farmed out to a series of specialist. They’ll hire one agency to do their public relations and another to do their advertising, (maybe even several, depending on the complexity of message and demographics.) Marketing has become very specialized. A single brand could be doing business simultaneously with dozens of agencies.
While marketing is an activity that every business should be investing in, for some growing businesses hiring an agency may be premature. Here are a few questions, the small business owner should ask themselves before hiring an agency.
- Do I know my customer? Far too often, we encounter businesses of all sizes that really aren’t in-tune with who exactly is their best customer. By investing in marketing activities to attract the wrong customer, marketers are setting themselves up for failure.
- Does it make financial sense? One common mistake businesses make is investing in an agency without the available margins to return profit on the investment. If you’re selling $1 soda and your cost to produce it is 75 cents, all of your profit and overhead comes out of that quarter that’s left, including your marketing. Coca-Cola can afford to hire many agencies because of the volume they move. Your agency is going to have to sell a way too much soda for you for you to realize a return. Any good agency understands this and won’t set themselves or the client up for failure. But beware of those that will take your business anyway, they likely are inexperienced.
- Do I have a good concept of a lead for your business? Leads are prospective customers that exhibit buying behavior. In order to identify leads, you must have a defined buying process, or journey, that enables the prospective customer to do research and make an informed decision. Each lead should have a potential sales value attached to it, that if they become a customer, is revenue producing. A marketing agency will not only help you find more leads but also do so faster than you could on your own. The less time leads spend in your buying funnel, the more business you will have and the more money you will make.
- Having more leads is great, but do I have a mechanism to close them? A full-service Marketing Agency will assist in creating a healthy pipeline but you have to have a sales strategy. Not every small business will have the resources to support an entire sales team but should have one employee dedicated to new business development. To start, consider hiring this person on a commission and/ or incentive basis. As they prove their worth, bring added value to the organization and meet you agreed upon benchmarks, you can reward them with benefits and more long-term stability. Using this strategy will afford you the opportunity to build a low-risk sales team that can work in tandem with your marketing firm to grow your revenue.
- What are my goals? Every business owner will have general goals but it’s important to look at marketing goals in relationship to growth. Not only is it important to know the business’s long and short term goals but to also know what the consequence is if those goals are missed. What keeps you up at night? Your agency will need to know this so they can focus on activity that not only helps you reach your goal, but perhaps more importantly, prioritizes your marketing plan as to bring goal-oriented strategy to the forefront.
Not every small business is ready to hire a Full-Service Marketing Agency however, most should aspire to need one in the future. With smart planning and sound strategy, you will build the infrastructure that will turn your once small business into a growth driven, lead generating, lean, mean revenue producing machine.