13 Critical considerations when selecting a marketing agency
In many cases marketing initiatives are undertaken as a result of chance contacts from marketing services providers. The viability of their service offering is taken for granted, and an ‘out of the box’ solution is implemented as a token gesture – resulting in negligible returns.
…. Does this sound familiar?
Marketing conducted in this manner is wrong on so many levels, some of which are listed below – to clarify your understanding I have paired each with an analogy (each building on the one before):
- • There is no strategic goal – you know you’re in a game but don’t know which game.
- • Market & competitors unknown – you know you’re playing football but don’t know which code/rules nor your opposing team
- • Operational capabilities unclear – you know you’re playing ‘soccer’ but don’t know if you have the right gear.
- • Stakeholders undefined – you know you’re playing in ‘A league’ but don’t know who’s on your team.
This blog deals with choosing the right team. Following the criteria below will help in ensuring your marketing partner is the best possible choice. This partner will not only match your immediate business needs but will enable your understanding of market, competitors and capabilities; and help define marketing strategy and tactics. Only then you’ll reap the rewards of effective marketing campaigns and be in control of marketing costs.
1. Functional Capabilities.
There will be a variety of people from different departments within the agency working on your marketing program. Having the right people involved is essential for your campaign’s success. Ask yourself the following questions:
- • What is the range of services delivered by the agency team?
- • Can they ramp up quickly in order to meet the launch timeline?
2. Industry/Category Experience.
An agency which has knowledge of your industry will not have to spend time acclimating itself with the needs and concerns associated with your area of business. In addition, the agency will already have experience working with clients similar to your company and understand the requirements of a successful marketing strategy for your product or campaign. Ideally agencies which specialize in a particular industry but are able to differentiate your brand from the other clients they support. Also, does the agency have retail experience? Are they focused on the business to business sector? Do they understand the regulations aligned with your industry? Etc …. all such criteria must be considered.
3. Scope of Services / Expertise
Agencies offering a narrow range of services are restricted in the marketing solutions they can provide, and are limited in the impact their solutions have on your business. Some examples:
- • It is pointless capturing buyer information if automated follow-up processes are not in place.
- • Sending customers to your website (or business premises) without adequate resources to make the sale (product marketing, sales training etc).
Rather than providing unbiased strategic / tactical marketing advice (structured around business needs) – such marketing agencies push their own products, demonstrating no responsibility nor concern for business outcomes.
4. Depth of Expertise / Level of Experience
It’s not enough to have broad expertise across all marketing channels – the implementation and operational management of a marketing campaign requires extensive experience and deep knowledge of each marketing channel used. The agency must have the internal expertise (or be able to draw on external resources) of each channel used in order to optimise the campaign and deliver required results.
5. System Independence
Every business is different – each has specific needs, is faced with distinct issues, and requires a unique solution. In order to provide value any marketing initiative must be built around (and function within) existing operational systems.
Marketing agencies exclusively dependent on technologies which:
- • Are limited in functionality and don’t adequately satisfy business needs.
- • Are inflexible in operation and force your business to adapt its processes, rather than adapting the technology around existing business function.
- • Don’t integrate with existing business systems – more work for less value.
Consequently, the business impact derived from the marketing initiative becomes minimal.
In the end the solution is determined by not what’s best for your business …. but what’s best for the marketing agency’s bottom-line.
6. Account Management.
An essential component of a successful marketing campaign is good communication between the business team and the agency. What your business has in mind may be completely different from the agency’s vision. If there are ongoing issues needing to be addressed, you should be able to rely on the agency’s account management team to navigate the right channels in order to properly address these issues in a timely manner.
7. Executional Excellence.
“The devil is in the detail” – examining the tactics and strategies applied to past campaigns will help you evaluate the agency’s ability to successfully develop and deploy marketing programs. Requesting details on how an agency has supported a product launch or early product lifecycle will allow you to evaluate the agency’s executional capabilities. Also be sure to ask for metrics used to measure success. Your definition of a successful campaign may be different than the agency’s definition.
8. Strategic Thinking.
One critical factor to consider when evaluating an agency is its proposed strategy and ability to deliver the value proposition, and ultimately differentiate your brand from competitors. The strategy must be well defined and the more detail the agency provides about their strategic framework during the selection process, the better. The campaign messaging and the market in which the campaign is being targeted and deployed can make or break your marketing efforts
A marketing agency must be able to relay the strategic message through strong creative work. Successful marketing campaigns typically possess an innovative creative element which grabs the target market’s attention and leads to a call to action. Evaluate an agency’s creativity and whether or not their work meets your vision.
10. Innovative and Technologically Advanced.
In today’s digital environment, it is more important than ever to have an understanding of technology and the best ways to utilize it within a marketing program. Ensure technological capabilities are thoroughly assessed as it relates to the nature of the assignment and projected scope of work. The scope may call for social media marketing, application development, website hosting, or digital advertising in general. Assess the overall innovative mindset to ensure the tactics being proposed are relevant and applicable to your brand’s target market.
11. Cultural Fit.
An agency is an extension of your business team and therefore must share the same vision for your brand. Be sure to establish an understanding of the culture of each agency under consideration and decide amongst the stakeholders involved in the project which ones will work well within your organization.
12. Adaptable to Change.
Ensure your agency has processes and procedures in place for when/if changes occur so a project is not delayed or pushed over budget. You can also gain a sense of how flexible an agency is during the sourcing process based on its response to timeline and milestone adjustments. Your agency’s account management team must be able to demonstrate how it will address changes effectively without disrupting the overall flow of the campaign.
13. Demonstrated Commitment to Working with Other Service Partners.
The marketing agency must be able to collaborate with other specialist service providers in order to serve the best interests of the brand. A business may require a creative agency, a media buyer, a digital shop, a PR agency, and other supporting services to work together (deliver an integrated marketing solution). Ensure the agency selected for a particular assignment has experience dealing in this type of multi-stakeholder environment.