We’re all about supporting other entrepreneurs, and when you’re considering hiring a marketing agency, we like to think we have some insights that could be helpful. Just think of us as the Macy’s Santa Claus sending customers to Gimble’s if we don’t offer exactly what they’re looking for.

But remember: the Macy’s Santa Claus was the REAL Santa Claus.

Before we dive into these great tips and insights you really should consider when hiring a marketing agency, we have a bone to pick with other marketers who are low-key snooping this blog post. You are seriously missing the boat when it comes to customer service, and we hope these tips will help readers avoid you like the plague. You know who you are.

 

Hiring a marketing agency vs. building your internal team

Now that the finger-wagging is done, let’s focus on what you, the business owner, really need.

You need an internal marketing team for these reasons:

  • A dedicated internal marketing staff understands your business goals, products, and marketplace
  • They have all the time in the world to get stuff right because they work on salary
  • They only work for you and you’ll mostly get immediate responses and turnaround

While an internal team can be ideal, it’s expensive. Even one marketing staffer will set you back about $60,000-100,000 per year, and at the lower end, you’re just not guaranteed much industry experience. Sure, you can DIY your marketing, but business growth pretty much guarantees you can’t do that forever (even with all these free marketing tools!).

That’s why, for many of our clients, outsourcing just makes sense. Some of them even come to us with an internal team that is stretched too thin and needs help. Hiring a marketing agency is (or should be) just like adding an entire marketing team to your staff for a fraction of what it would cost to add even one employee.

Finding a GREAT marketing team to hire is where things can get sticky. We’ve got you. Journey with us to the land of the Macy’s Santa as we try desperately to help you spend your marketing dollar wisely.

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Find a marketing agency you can trust (or three)

This is THE biggest challenge once you’ve decided to hire a marketing firm. How do you find an agency you can trust? We wish we had a better answer for this one, honestly, because fly-by-night, low-bid agencies get us super mad.

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The thing is, it is not HARD to practice great customer service and provide measurable value and marketing ROI. So we’re not even sure how some firms continue to operate with all the bad reviews we hear from the clients whose websites and ad accounts we have to rescue from craptastic marketing practices. Seriously, some of this stuff is SO BAD we don’t even know how these people can call themselves marketers.

The best way to find marketers you can trust is by asking around. Your business network is a great place to find great agencies that provide excellent service and reporting. Just remember to ask more than one person. If three business owners recommend an agency, they’re worth looking into.

When you find three contenders, set up consultations (they should be free) to see if they’re a good match for your business. Then, use these tips to separate the chaff from the badass agencies. Or, something like that.

Know what you’ve tried and what works

More importantly, know what doesn’t work for your business and be prepared to call that out. A great agency will want your insights to build out marketing plans and budgets that work from day one, taking what you know and applying lessons learned to find your success.

If you’re a B2B company targeting HR decision-makers, you won’t find much value in Facebook marketing. (Yet, you have to be there. It’s an unwritten rule.) If you’re a local B2C service provider, LinkedIn probably isn’t where the bulk of your marketing dollars should go. More than likely, you already know this.

Have your updated business plan handy

Great marketing should always serve your business goals, both short- and long-term. On the flipside of that, if you don’t know what your goals are or (gasp!) haven’t set any, you can’t expect an agency to help you create a business plan without a larger go-to-market strategy.

We do that, by the way.

With your business plan in front of you, you’ll be able to work through what short-term goals your marketing plan should include to get you to your long-term goals. If you need one additional corporate client every six months to get you to your 5-year revenue goal, a great marketing firm will help you achieve it. And, when you’re hiring a marketing agency, it’s essential to know that you’re both working toward the same business goals.

Be open to recommendations

While your marketing strategy should serve your larger business goals, come into a consultation with an open mind. Sure, you may have heard from a fellow business owner that her new Wix site is da bomb, but maybe one anecdotal social proof isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Before hiring a marketing agency, assert the expectation that any firm you’re considering will give you straight facts and up-front honesty. Then, consider their experience and customer reviews to temper your acceptance of their recommendations.

Know when to put your foot down

Yep, this is the part where we directly contradict what we just told you…sort of. We want you to know your business because it’s important to know when to draw a line in the sand and not let a marketing “expert” talk you out of your area of expertise.

If you sell high-end clothing and have an online store and an upscale boutique in Highland Park Village, your website should be optimized for the keywords you know to be directly related to your greatest streams of revenue (e.g., “Stella McCartney”).

Don’t allow a marketer to railroad you into approving a less-than ideal keyword list for the sake of getting more “eyeballs.” (Remember… you can have a million eyeballs on your content, but if they’re the wrong eyeballs, they’re not buying what you’re selling. Don’t let a marketer convince you otherwise.)

Really, if a marketing firm tries this, just run. Run fast. We’re a safe space for those types of traumatic experiences.

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Request proof of any agency’s claims

It’s easy enough to prove, as an agency, that you have applicable experience planning large conferences that are both online and in-person. Ask for that proof.

Any agency worth its salt will want to connect you with current and former clients who will give rave reviews about their work. They’ll be willing to show you example ROI reports so you’ll know what to expect and how they’ll measure your investment.

What is salt worth, anyway? Does being salty count? We think maybe it does, in some situations. Like when a marketing agency doesn’t regularly provide monthly reporting.

Hiring a marketing agency shouldn’t be a gamble

You have the right to demand excellence when hiring a marketing agency. More than that, you should be able to enjoy letting real marketing pros create a brand experience and strategy that gets creative and elevates your business reputation.

In summary, here’s how you approach a new firm to see if it’s right for your business:

  1. Select agencies that come highly recommended by at least three successful people you trust.
  2. Come to the initial consultation with SMART goals and a deep knowledge of your brand and target audience.
  3. Ask what they recommend for your business marketing strategy, given your brand and goals. Be prepared to consider thoughtful insights.
  4. Do not accept less-than-great ideas because they’re trendy or serve a single purpose, without serving the big picture and your business goals.
  5. Ask for client referrals and sample reports. You need to know what the agency offers and what it’s like to work with them.

Try it out for yourself. Use these tips, and set up a consultation with Cowtown Creative and two other firms. You’ll either love us right away and sign on to start getting great results, or you’ll come back when another agency leaves you wondering where your investment went.

Either way, we’re happy to be your marketing team whenever you’re ready to hire a marketing agency you can trust.

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