If you own a business, no doubt you’re bombarded from all directions with pitches from various marketing agencies. Many are promising over-the-top results, some are more measured. And you’ve probably heard from other business owners or read in small business forums that “all marketing agencies are a scam” or something similar.
So where does that leave you?
The idea that you’re going to double, triple, or 10x your sales overnight when you hire that slick agency is overblown hyperbole at best and straight-up BS at worst.
The ideas that every marketing agency is some scam looking to take your money or that "marketing doesn't work" are equally false.
As with everything, the reality is somewhere in the middle.
The skill of marketing agencies out there varies greatly. There are probably a small number of unethical operators just looking to take your money. There are definitely a decent number who are good intentioned, but incompetent. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, in your area who are highly-skilled, ethical marketers.
The readiness of a business to work with an agency also varies widely. When a business tries to work with a marketing agency before they have built a proper foundation in their business, they all but guarantee failure. When that happens, there is frustration for all parties involved.
How to tell if you’re ready to work with a agency
Here are a few fundamentals that are often overlooked, but are critical to the success of any marketing campaign.
Do you have a proven offer that converts?
A huge contributing factor to a marking campaign’s success is a clear, well-converting offer. A big reason that a campaign fails is because no one wants to buy what is being promoted. Fine-tune your offer until you reach a consistent close rate of at least 25% with prospects you can get through networking or referrals.
Do you have the capacity to take on more clients?
Don’t waste your time and money getting clients you can’t serve. A great marketing campaign means nothing if you don't have the time or resources to deliver once a client signs on. Breaking a promise you made during the sale is a sure fire way to destroy your reputation. As Warren Buffet says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
Do you have consistent revenue coming in?
A marketing campaign takes time and money to get up and running well, no matter who is running it. Is it theoretically possible that you’ll start getting sales immediately? Yes. Is it likely? No. There are so many factors that go into a successful campaign that getting exactly right on day 1 is not a reasonable expectation for anyone (hint: and a major red flag if someone says they can). The reality is campaigns typically need 4 to 12 weeks to start producing consistent results. Be sure you are in a position to fund the work at the level it needs to be funded for at least a few months. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to shut it off too soon and will have wasted what you spent.
Once you’ve checked all the boxes for being ready for an agency and a proper marketing campaign, then it's time to find the right agency.
What should you be looking for in an agency partner?
They should actually be a partner.
That means the agency team takes the time to understand your unique situation and goals. And they work with you to make them happen, not try to force-fit you into their standard formula.
They should be focused on results, not activity.
Your agency should be talking to you about how well their efforts are generating the desired results, not how many clicks your ad got, or how many times they posted content for you.
They should follow through and follow up.
You should know exactly who to talk to at the agency and actually be able to reach them. And when they say they’re doing to do something, they do it.
They should be realistic.
One of the biggest reasons relationships between agencies and companies turn sour is the agency makes unrealistic promises they (or anyone else) can’t keep. Your agency partner should set realistic expectations for what can be achieved, even if it may not be what you want to hear.
They should focus on strategy first and tactics second.
A professional agency will create a strategy first and then use the tactics that will best implement the strategy. Beware the agency that launches directly into the tactics they're going to use before understanding the big picture and the outcomes you are trying to achieve.
When you’ve done the work on your side and you work with a professional agency you get professional results. It’s that simple.
So, the next time you think about hiring someone to do marketing for you, stop to assess whether you’ve done the work internally to be ready. Then apply the five criteria I listed here to find an agency you can build a long-term relationship with.
about the author
Ed Erickson is the CEO of Pitch Perfect Digital, a digital marketing agency serving coaches, consultants, and other service providers.
For more information, visit his website (https://pitchperfectdigital.com)