As a small business owner who runs a marketing firm, I hear all the time about the relationships that didn’t work out. Small business owners who can’t find a marketing firm they “click” with, marketing firms that are frustrated by the clients who balk at every idea, etc. Communication is key to avoiding these issues. Here are some questions to ask a marketing firm before hiring them.
16 Questions to Ask a Marketing Firm
Before you start a partnership with a marketing firm, it’s imperative to take a step back and introspect. The alignment of your expectations and the firm’s capabilities can be the make-or-break factor for your collaboration.
Remember, marketing is a partnership. Nobody plays tennis alone. You need to be able to do your part to make the relationship work. And a big part of doing your part is being extremely clear about what you want. To do that, you need to ask yourself some questions first.
Here are some pivotal questions to ponder before entrusting a marketing firm with your brand’s vision.
Are You Willing to Listen and Try New Things?
Before you spend a penny on your marketing, it’s time to ask yourself if you’re ready, willing and able to listen to the person you hire.
No one says you have to implement every idea. Working with a marketer doesn’t mean slavishly adhering to everything they have to say. But if you’re not willing to even consider something different from how you’ve always done it, you’re wasting your money paying for someone else’s new ideas.
What’s Your Communication Style?
Every business owner is different. Some people prefer to communicate with their marketing firm very rarely, communicating primarily through emails and scheduled meetings. Other people want more time from their marketing team, expecting instant availability and response to calls, emails and tweets.
Understanding your communication style is very helpful when searching for a marketing firm. You want to find a company that’s a good fit. If you like instant communication and the firm you work with has a more laid-back approach to answering calls and emails, it will be a difficult working relationship to maintain.
Keep in mind that the more time a marketing company spends with you, the larger your bill will be.
How Are You With Deadlines?
Every marketing company will need certain things from you in order to do their jobs. It takes a lot of informational collateral to run a successful marketing campaign.
As the business owner, your marketing firm is depending on you to answer questions, provide insights and in-house graphics, review material as it’s developed and give approvals in a timely fashion to hit crucial implementation deadlines.
Maintaining an awareness of the project timeline is an important element to successful marketing.
Where Do Ideas Come From?
Be clear about what you expect your marketing firm to do. Do you want them to generate creative ideas for you, or do you want them to implement ideas you already have?
The answer to this question can vary over the course of time. In the progression of a long-term relationship with a marketing firm, some of the creative concepts are firm-generated while others come from the clients. The best ideas are often collaborations.
Your personality and expertise are two of your business’ biggest assets. You need to think through how you’re going to integrate these qualities into your brand messaging.
Some people prefer to be very behind the scenes, letting their business be represented by logos and iconography, while other business owners want their customers to be able to put a face with the business name. When it comes to expertise, some business owners believe that sharing almost everything they know results in empowered, educated buyers, while other business owners are more close-lipped.
There is no right or wrong answer here. Only the approach that makes you comfortable. You need to know what your preferences are and communicate those preferences to your prospective marketing firm.
How Much Education Do You Want Your Marketing Firm to Provide?
If you’re an experienced business owner and tech-savvy, you may feel fairly confident about your ability to implement the strategies your marketing firm recommends using the tools they suggest. However, if you’re not as confident, you may want your marketing firm to provide a certain level of education and training for your team.
For example, a digital marketing team may be asked to teach a business owner how to set up a Pinterest page or update a LinkedIn bio. Be aware of what your needs and expectations are, and communicate them to your prospective marketing firm. This will help you find the best fit for your needs.
What Do You Expect Your Marketing Agency To Do?
One big problem that crops up in marketing firm-client relationships is when clients expect services that the marketing firm doesn’t actually provide. Not every marketing firm does everything. The team that might create fantastic signage for your store could be a total flop when it comes to event marketing.
Understand what your team does, what they do well and when you’d be better served by seeking out another pro to handle your needs. It’s not always cost-effective to have your marketing firm do everything for you.
Taking some tasks in-house or finding a more affordable third-party provider to handle those tasks can make the most of your marketing budget. However, do make sure everyone knows how to work together to support your overall brand and message.
Do You Want Your Marketing Firm to Work With Other Professionals?
You may already have established working relationships with professionals. People such as your Web master, a graphic designer and so on – that you wish to continue.
Talk to your prospective marketing firm about the existing relationships you have, and ask about their willingness to work collaboratively. Some firms are very open to the possibility while others are not.
Clear communication around this point is essential.
How much am I willing to allocate for marketing efforts, and is the firm transparent about its pricing structure?
Before diving into a partnership with a marketing firm, have an open conversation about budgets. How much are you willing to spend? What does their pricing structure look like? Will there be any hidden or additional fees for specific requests?
Do the firm’s work ethics, culture, and values resonate with mine, ensuring a seamless collaboration?
In the world of marketing, where a brand’s persona is mirrored by the strategies put forth, the alignment of values between a business and its marketing agency is paramount. When there’s a mismatch, cracks begin to appear, leading to misrepresentations and misunderstandings. So, how can you ensure a seamless partnership?
- Shared Values: Begin by understanding the core values of the marketing firm. Are they built on integrity, innovation, customer-centricity, or some other foundation? Compare these with your business ethos. A shared value system often leads to cohesive strategies and smoother communications.
- Compatible Working Styles: Not all businesses operate the same way. Some prioritize quick turnarounds, while others lean more towards thorough, albeit slower, meticulous approaches. Gauge the firm’s work rhythm. Is it in tune with yours?
- Company Culture Match: Dive into the firm’s culture. Are they more formal and corporate, or do they have a startup, laid-back vibe? A cultural fit ensures smoother day-to-day interactions and can heavily influence the style of campaigns they propose.
- Transparency and Openness: Trust is the cornerstone of any successful collaboration. Ensure that the firm practices open communication, welcomes feedback, and is transparent in its dealings.
- Future Vision: It’s more than just the present. Does the firm’s vision for the future align with your business growth goals? A shared future perspective can drive more proactive and long-term strategies.
Are there relevant case studies that showcase their expertise and problem-solving skills in scenarios similar to mine?
Before hiring a marketing firm, always ask for relevant case studies. They serve as concrete evidence of the firm’s capabilities and provide insights into how they tackle challenges similar to yours.
What regular feedback and review mechanisms are i place and how often will we evaluate key performance metrics?
Ensure you establish a feedback mechanism from the beginning. Determine how often you’ll have review meetings and the key metrics you’ll be focusing on. This will help keep the collaboration on track and result-oriented.
If the partnership isn’t meeting expectations, is there a clear, respectful process in place to conclude our collaboration?
Just like you would with any other contract or partnership, discuss an exit strategy. Should the partnership not meet expectations, both parties should have a clear understanding of the process to dissolve the relationship, ensuring minimal disruptions and preserving mutual respect.
How has the firm previously navigated crises, and what strategies do they have in place to manage potential challenges swiftly?
How does the marketing firm handle crises? Have they successfully navigated any with previous clients? It’s essential to know your firm can swiftly and professionally manage any unforeseen negative publicity or issues.
Does the company prioritize staying updated?
Selecting a firm that stays on the cutting edge of trends, tools, and techniques is essential to keep your business relevant and competitive.
Consider these aspects:
- Industry Trends: The firm should have a pulse on industry shifts and emerging marketing trends, from social media fads to SEO changes. These trends often dictate consumer behavior and can significantly influence the success of your marketing strategy.
- Tools & Technology: With the rise of AI, big data, and automation, marketing has moved far beyond traditional means. Check if the firm has proficiency in leveraging state-of-the-art tools to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
- Training & Development: Does the firm invest in its employees’ continued learning and development? A team well-versed in the latest skills is more likely to bring innovative ideas to the table.
- Thought Leadership: A great way to gauge a firm’s commitment to staying updated is its contribution to industry discourse. Do they have thought leadership content in the form of blogs, webinars, or industry conference participations?
Here’s are some additional questions you could ask:
|Criteria||Importance||Questions to Ask|
|Industry Trends||High||How does the firm stay abreast of the latest marketing trends and how are these implemented in their strategies?|
|Tools & Technology||High||What tools does the firm use? Are they utilizing the latest technology for data analysis, automation, and customer engagement?|
|Training & Development||Medium||What ongoing training and development programs does the firm offer to its employees?|
|Thought Leadership||Medium||Does the firm contribute to industry thought leadership through blogs, speaking engagements, webinars, etc.?|
How does the company measure campaign success, and how often will they share analytical insights?
Lastly, understand how the marketing firm measures success. Which tools do they use? How do they track ROI? How often will they share reports with you? You need tangible results to gauge the success of your campaigns.
By incorporating these suggestions, your article will provide a comprehensive checklist for small business owners and ensure a successful partnership with their chosen marketing firm.
What About a Guarantee?
As a business owner, you’ve learned to be cautious. Guarantees are good things. They mean if something doesn’t work out, you get your money back. Great marketers will present you with tactics and tools that have worked well for companies similar to yours in the past, as well as their own creative approach to implementation.
However, there’s no way to guarantee that your audience will respond the way you want them to. There are too many factors beyond the marketer’s control. The best sales campaign in the world can be useless if there’s a major blizzard the weekend of your sales event.
That’s why you seldom see guarantees offered by marketing agencies.
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