Firstly, why choose a marketing agency at all? Are you not better off doing it yourself and saving the money?
Good question, and truthfully, some businesses are better off doing it themselves. They have the resources, the knowledge and the flair. But they’re the exception. Most businesses do not have the in-house expertise, or quite frankly the time, to do their own marketing to the standard required. In such circumstances, they’re better off focusing on their core job and hiring a marketing agency, like they would an accounting or legal firm.
So having made the decision to hire a marketing agency, what criteria should you bear in mind:
1. Core skill
Different agencies specialise in different things. Some are branding specialists, others are promotion specialists. Some specialise in digital media such as web and social media, others in traditional media such as TV and radio. In our case, we specialise in brand strategy and then applying the outcome to whatever is required, be it print or web. It means that our clients don’t have to deal with multiple suppliers. We can manage everything for them.
2. Sector experience
A good agency is able to adapt to different businesses and industries, so it is not crucial that the agency you choose has experience in your sector. That said, it does help if they have some understanding of your industry and the relevant issues, so you don’t have to brief them from scratch. In our case, we specialise in a number of sectors, including food and drink, financial services, healthcare, education and public sector.
3. Track record
A good agency will have a good history so you should ask to see some examples of their previous work. Better still, ask if they can put you in contact with some of their clients who can tell you in their own words what the agency is like to work with. There’s nothing better than a first-hand account. We have worked with hundreds of clients down through the years, and many have referred us to other companies who then became clients.
4. Fee structure
Different agencies charge different fees, depending on their size, overheads, reputation etc. Moreover, some agencies charge by the project, others by the hour, and others by a combination of both. It’s important therefore that you shop around and understand the different charges (and hidden fees). It’s also important that you compare apples with apples (as much as you can). In our case, we tend to be less expensive than some of the big city agencies because we’re based in Waterford. It also means we enjoy a better work life balance which feeds into the quality of our output.
5. Right fit
Not every agency is suitable for every client, and vice versa. They might have the right skills and experience, but they mightn’t ‘feel’ right. They might be too big, or not big enough. They might be too corporate, or not corporate enough. Or the chemistry might be wrong, and you just don’t click with them. That’s why a face-to-face meeting is worthwhile, so you can see the whites of their eyes. In our case, while we have quite a few large clients, we work best with smaller businesses and owner managers who can make decisions and keep things moving.
As with most decisions in life, choosing a marketing agency is a combination of the head and heart. You have to do your homework and shortlist the ones with the right skills and experience, but ultimately, you need to go with your gut and pick the one that feels right for your business and that you think you can work with over time to get the best results.