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How to Choose a Marketing Agency

If you’ve ever made a large investment, such as buying your first home, you probably felt overwhelmed by all there was to think about: How much will the monthly payments be? Is the cost of the mortgage worth it? Will this investment pay off?

In much the same way, choosing a marketing agency can feel just as overwhelming, and you’ll probably find yourself asking a lot of similar questions – How much will my monthly retainer be? Is the cost worth it? Will this investment pay off? (And so on and so on.)

And while it’s normal to question these things (you are likely making a significant investment, after all), you need to remember that it is an investment, meaning you can only get out of it what you put in.

If you focus on what an agency can provide your business in the long-term, you’ll start to see the value beyond the dollar signs.  

Subject Matter Expertise

You know your business better than anyone else, and the agency you work with should too – or at least come pretty darn close. That’s not to say that they have to be mind readers or finish your sentences, but if talking to them about what you do is like trying to teach a toddler to use Rosetta Stone, keep looking.

Finding an agency with a good understanding of your industry and the people you want to do business with means they’ll be much more likely to produce first-rate content to attract them. It’s not going to do you much good hiring a real estate marketing agency to develop a go-to-market strategy for your new line of reversible fanny packs.

But you get the idea.

Ideally, look for an agency that not only understands your industry and the competitive landscape, but also one who may have established relationships with key players and thought leaders in your field.

Value Alignment

You know that divorce between the bible-thumping Baptist and the closeted Mormon that you saw coming a mile away? Chances are, you were attuned to the misalignment in core values.

Value alignment is an important part of any relationship, so keep that in mind when you enter a relationship with an agency. I mean, you shouldn’t expect to get roses on Valentine’s Day or anything, but there is an amount of give and take that is necessary for the relationship to function.

Every business, whether they realize it or not, operates according to a set of values – keep customers happy no matter what it takes, invest in your employees so they’ll invest in you, confront failure openly; these are all values.  

If you’re not sure what your company’s core values are, ask yourself these questions to help make a determination:

  • Do you prefer an agency who will take orders or who will take an idea and run with it?
  • Are you looking for a sounding board or would you prefer an agency to provide recommendations?
  • Are you interested in high-level strategy for the long-term or quick wins?

The core values of an agency are a good indicator of what your working relationship will be like, so make sure you choose an agency that shares a similar mindset.

Cultural Fit

Along with core values, you’ll want to assess cultural fit. People often overlook this important step, and it’s much to their detriment.

What does it matter if the agency’s office is an open floor concept with no clear delineation between the CEO and the intern and yours is a hallway of offices with closed doors?

Actually, it matters a lot in terms of what it implies – working style.

Sure, mismatched floor plans shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but if you’re working with a very collaborative agency who likes to bounce ideas off each other but you’re looking for a single point of contact to take direct orders, you’re not going to be happy.  

The bottom line is; you want an agency that gets you. And if their working style is vastly different than yours, chances are it’s not going to be a good fit.

Set Expectations

Once you’ve found an agency you’d like to work with, make sure that you establish clear expectations up front. If you’re looking for fifty new leads by the end of the quarter, but your agency is planning on using your first month’s retainer to redesign your logo and branding materials, you’re going to have a problem. Setting expectations up front will ensure that both parties are on the same page, minimalizing room for error.

It’ll also help you set a realistic budget, and give you a good sense of what you can expect for your investment. Just do your best not to let cost completely dictate your decision, because you can end up diluting the quality and impact of the work.

Instead, focus on finding an agency that aligns with your goals and offers the best possibilities for your business.

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