August 10, 2020 Doug Cofer

How to Pick Your Marketing Agency: Part Four

Mature businessman working at home using lap top and smart phone

When Industry Needs Meets Strategy

It requires a great deal of confidence and trust to invite others into your business’ wheelhouse, let alone your own. Choosing a marketing partner is no different. You have taken the time and effort necessary to familiarize yourself with your chosen industry—and you’ll never stop learning! You’re probably wondering, how can you trust that a marketing agency will know enough about your industry and business to create content they can market effectively? What happens if they don’t?

Match to your industry or needs

This is why it’s valuable to select an agency experienced in the industry you’ve invested valuable time, resources and effort into. For example, an agency with experience in restaurants or hospitality may not have the preexisting knowledge and experience to cater to a technical or medical company. It’s imperative that your chosen agency has the resources and skills necessary to craft content catered to your most loyal customers and clientele. An agency with no experience in your chosen industry may take up valuable time to attempt to fully understand the expectations of consumer—potentially months of trial and error to reach the proper voice, outlook and strategy for your business. If they don’t already have a foundation in the industry you’re in, it is vital that they have the ability to learn and understand it quickly. 

Work with an agency that has worked in your industry (or close)

Consider this: you’ve found an agency that ticks all of your boxes—except for one. They’re savvy, technical and creative people who have impeccable communication skills and a real heart for what they do. You know your business won’t get lost in the swell of busy-ness and your opinion seems to be valued by the people who’d spearhead your campaign. Everything feels comfortable and feasible and you’re ready to move forward. But, what’s that unchecked box? 

Well, they haven’t worked in your industry. 

Before you panic and decide to scrap your contract or hit the drawing board once again, pause to consider the industries they have worked in. If there’s nothing even remotely related to your business’ area of expertise on their repertoire, odds are, it’s not going to be a great fit because of the technical jargon and research they’ll need to conduct to fully understand your product. However, if they have adequate experience in industries that a) can segway into your own or b) contain some overlap in required knowledge and experience, then it’s an option worth considering. 

Review relevant work samples

This can be considered the final step in an agency’s qualification in representing your business. It’s important to recognize that just because they are producing eye-catching content doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for you. Identify and evaluate the work that’s relevant to your industry or work completed for similar businesses. Could you see this working for your business? What do you like and not like about what you’re seeing? Of course, no two businesses are alike and it’s unwise to expect the same content or campaign for your own business, but consistency in service and communication is key. Do they know their stuff?

Push past their “best work” to find something that makes sense for you and is relevant to your industry. Seek out a marketing partner that is honest about their capabilities, be clear in your expectations and do your part in showing them the ropes—no one understands your business better than you. 

Align your agency choice to your expectations and work needed 

Ask yourself: what are your expectations from a marketing partner? Do you want the occasional sit-down meeting just to touch base and ensure the content and direction are still aligned with your core values? Or are you okay with giving full creative liberty and receiving an occasional update via email or phone call? Identify your preferred style of communication and it will become more apparent as to which agency is capable of satisfying that request. 

Your goals should also be attainable within the resources and capabilities of your chosen agency. Though we all have lofty goals and complex ideas, it is unrealistic to expect more from an agency than they can feasibly make happen. This can draw them away from tasks that may be more critical to your marketing campaign’s success. For example, if your goals dictate a heavy public relations effort, then working with an agency that doesn’t have those resources isn’t going to be successful. Or, if your goals necessitate a new website, it’s important that you work with an agency that is adept and effective at building an engaging, converting website. When an agency cannot carry out a well-rounded campaign aligned with your desires, odds are it isn’t the right one for you. Focus on collaborating with an agency that offers a marketing mix that will work best for your business.

Strategy drives the conversation

Choosing a marketing partner is not a decision to be overlooked. It’s okay to spend time weighing your options, meeting with different agencies and having detailed conversations to glean as much information as possible. The process of determining the right agency for you should not consist of brief, superficial conversations. Take advantage of the opportunity to flesh out what your options are, what compromises need to be made and what each agency both can and can’t make happen. The direction you go with your choice of agency should be based on what your required strategy is to meet your goals.

Get references — check their work and call them!

Before you eat at a restaurant or hire someone to give you a haircut, it’s likely that you look at reviews first. We’re conditioned to choose the best-of-the-best––why should we treat marketing any differently? 

A loyal customer base is a tell-tale sign of good service, attention to detail and dedication to clients. Consult with another business within your industry to learn what their chosen marketing partner has done for them. Pay attention to any red flags raised by former clients through testimonials or honest reviews. If you’ve found an agency that looks good on paper, reach out to some of their clients to ensure they are who they say they are. If you are able to get a list of references in industries similar or related to yours, take advantage of the opportunity to actually call them and hear their side. Good, successful agencies will have references who are eager to pick up the phone and share their experiences in working with their chosen marketing partner. 

While coordinating your marketing agency with your industry is an important thing to consider, don’t rule an agency out that ticks every other box on your list of qualifications. Remember: strategy drives the boat. Don’t pick an agency solely because you need something specific done—or else you’re not going to get the results you want. There is a first time for every agency when it comes to working with various industries and types of businesses, it’s just a matter of recognizing those who are truly capable of learning, understanding and taking action on your business’ marketing. 

Want to learn more about the decision-making process in choosing a marketing agency? Click to read parts one, two and three of this series.

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