In my last column, I addressed the choice many growing companies must make about how to handle their marketing. Should they establish an in-house marketing department, or should they engage a marketing firm? I concluded the discussion with this question: If it becomes evident that marketing support is needed, how would a corporate decision-maker choose the right agency? Here are a few factors to consider:
- Size matters. If you’re a mega-corporation, you’d be wise to choose a large agency that has experience working through the corporate channels which are a natural part of big business. If, however, you’re a growing firm, then a moderate-sized agency would probably provide you with the most hands-on attention.
- The right stuff. Similarly, you want a company that offers the services you need. In many cases, the right agency will become your one-stop shop for all things creative. And marketing. And new media. And general business. The right firm will grow with you.
- A love connection. That might be putting it a little too strongly, but you do need to be compatible with your marketing firm’s personality, approach and culture. This will ensure a more smooth relationship as you both work toward the same goal—growing YOUR business.
Now that you have the criteria, where do you go from here? The following are some tips to help you in the search for that perfect marketing partner.
- Ask around. Talk to organizations similar to yours that have marketing firms and get recommendations. You may start hearing the same names over and over, and will be able to establish some generalities based on their comments and reviews. Organizations such as the Peoria Ad Club and Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce can also be beneficial.
- Call a meeting. Identify a few key choices and meet with each one. Include in the meeting any individuals who will be working closely with the firm as well. Evaluate not only what they bring to the table as far as their own plans, but also how they respond to your ideas and how well you interact with each other. The relationship with your marketing firm should be a partnership, not a dictatorship.
- Request proposals. After determining which firms you feel comfortable with, request proposals. Provide some background on your business, where you are and where you want to be. Including a timeline or budget is also helpful. Not only will this give the marketing firm an idea of what to expect, but it may give you a little more insight into your own goals as well. The applicants should provide you with proposals indicating how they (in general terms) can help you achieve your goals.
No matter what kind of marketing firm you end up hiring, make sure that their values and objectives mirror your own. You’ll have fewer surprises down the road, and will be able to form a relationship that, over time, can take your organization to new heights. TPW