Our prior blog, In-House vs Outsourced Marketing: Pros & Cons, explored how to assess if outsourcing all or part of your marketing strategy is right for your business. If you determine that outsourcing is a good way to expand your marketing capacity, the next step is selecting a partner with the values, expertise, resources, process, and creativity to support you business and achieve your marketing goals. Where should you start, what should you look for, and what questions should you ask? Read on for tips to make your search effective and successful.
1. How do I find a marketing agency?
Referrals are the feel-good favorites when it comes to selecting a service provider of any kind. Knowing that a company has earned a referral from someone you know and trust offers a sense of comfort that you’ll have a satisfactory experience as their customer, too. Friends, networking groups, and business partners are good sources for referrals, so be on the lookout for someone with a fresh logo on a business card, a newly redesigned website that grabbed your attention, or consistently engaging social media content. Be proactive, ask questions, and reach out on social media to ask for referrals directly. When you find a contact with a referral, ask about their experiences—if the provider gave them strategic guidance and solutions that met their goals, stayed within their budget, and was easy to work with. Always ask if they are currently working with that marketing firm or would hire them again if they could.
If a referral isn’t available, the internet can be an effective way to find a marketing partner. Firms will showcase their work on a variety of platforms and provide information on the scope of services they offer. Keep in mind when relying on online evaluations that websites are sales tools, and the firm has hand-selected featured projects to promote their business and attract your attention. You’ll want to find out the strategy behind the work they display, the team that worked on the project, the budget invested by the client, and what goals it accomplished so you can determine if work they would do for you will meet your expectations. A great way to follow up on internet searches is to ask companies for a list of client references similar in size and scope to your company and marketing efforts.
2. What do I want the marketing agency to accomplish, or what problem do I want them to solve?
While interviewing prospective marketing partners, it is important to clearly articulate your current challenges, your marketing vision or goals, and how you think a marketing firm can help. If you have a marketing strategy in place and need a plan or project executed, look for a firm with expertise in that type of work and be sure they can incorporate it into your broader strategy. But if you need a consulting partner who can build your strategy with you, you’ll want a partner known for listening, identifying a problem or need, and committing to your growth and success. Be clear about what type of support you need and choose a partner that is able to provide it. At TMC, many of our clients do not have an internal marketing team. We are often hired to help define the marketing strategy, the budget, and the goals, so our makeup and processes are different from firms that primarily do marketing execution.
If your marketing needs encompass multiple disciplines, the idea of a full-service firm may seem attractive. When looking for one partner to meet all your needs, consider how deep their expertise is in each area. Perhaps a firm with certain high-quality specializations can address most of your needs and coordinate with additional providers to accomplish other pieces. Clients who work with TMC choose us for our strategic strengths in identifying and solving problems, and they trust us to partner with high-quality teams who excel in other areas.
Lastly, consider to what extent you want to be involved in the decision-making and execution of the marketing strategy—do you want to take a hands-on approach, or would you prefer to turn over control to the marketing company after getting alignment on direction? Be sure the firm you select has a process that aligns with your expectations.
3. What soft skills should I be looking for?
As in any partnership, you’ll want to have a good working relationship with your marketing firm. Take note of responsiveness, professionalism, and attentiveness, and look for a team that you feel a synergy with. Get a feel for if they will make your mission and vision their own and work to bring your strategy to life. If your contact through the sales process will not be part of the team you’ll work with daily, ask to meet your primary contact and ask how they manage ongoing communication and project management. Will you have a centralized point of contact, or access to all members of the team? In our decades of marketing work, we’ve found that clear communication and solid project management are critical to successful relationships.
4. What steps will the marketing team take to get to know your business?
You are bringing in an outside team to work as a branch of your company, and they will need a lot of information about your business and your industry to truly understand your needs. Look for companies that are committed to process and conduct multi-faceted research that includes interviews, surveys, and market studies (all dependent on your budget, of course!). A partner with a solid understanding of your business, how it is perceived in the marketplace, and its standing among competitors will be better equipped to elevate your brand through an effective marketing strategy.
5. How does the marketing agency measure success?
Your selection process should uncover how providers measure and define success to ensure it aligns with your expectations. If you’re outsourcing messaging and brand refinement, success might be measured in terms of team satisfaction and awareness metrics, while social media campaigns and digital advertising might have KPIs focused on engagement and cost per click goals. Look for a provider with clearly defined metrics for success and accountability for performance.
The more informed you are when you select a marketing partner, the more likely you are to find one that will be a valuable asset to your company.
At TMC we start with strategy. What’s your company’s current marketing reality? What do you want to accomplish? And how do we help get you there. Eye-catching design and creative storytelling come much easier when strategy is the cornerstone. If you have questions about your marketing strategy (or maybe don’t have one yet), connect with us.