Pointers on Hiring a Marketing Firm For Your Small Business

I’m not here to tell you which marketing firm to use. I’m not here asking that you call us. I’m offering you some pointers on what to look for when hiring a marketing firm.

Before you begin your search, ask yourself:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Where are they geographically?
  • Where and how do they access decision making information?
  • What is their purchase procedure?
  • What do you hope to achieve?

Now give some thought to what kind of marketing help you need. Some aspects can be performed by the marketing firm, and others can be handled by yourself. It can change as your business changes, as you may start in one place and then realize you need “this” and not “that”.  You need to stay the course, but flexibility is imperative. Not all marketing firms are created equal. Some specialize and some are generalists. Some excel in certain areas and others offer a combination of services. One consideration is can that firm help and guide you from the very start.

Where do you start?

First, take a look at your “Branding”.  Branding is the foundation to any marketing effort. Without those branding building blocks such as:Dare_To_Be_Different

  • Logo design
  • Web page design and functionality
  • Mobile device presence

…any marketing will fall flat.

Once the basic building blocks are out of the way

  • Social Marketing:  Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn business pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest, etc.- overall social marketing plans and execution frequency.
  • Proper Registrations: commercial and government database registrations
  • Advertising: from business cards to print, radio, TV, billboards, or internet such as Pay per Click like AdWords.
  • Public relations: press releases, event coverage, white papers, and gaining exposure for product launches, grand openings, anniversaries and other PR opportunities.

Determine what you need right now. It’s very unlikely that as a small business, you can dominate the media in a few months’ time, so you may also want to think about your marketing needs along a “timeline”. What you need now, a few months from now, and next year. This can help you when you are interviewing potential firms, because who wants to start back at square-one with a new firm sometime down the road?

Not unlike most other business decisions, one of the most critical parts of finding marketing help is doing your research, as many companies occupy this space. Finding the right one takes a commitment of time and energy.

Keep in mind, marketing is subjective. You may talk to someone that is considered one of the greatest firms in town, but if you don’t like their current design work, they may not be right for you. Which leads me to…

small-business-marketingRemember, you’re not marketing to yourself.

It’s no surprise that the majority of business owners are pretty bad at marketing themselves. If you were good at it, you’d be doing it for a living. Remember that marketing relies not upon understanding oneself but understanding how others perceive you. The Zen is in the understanding of how marketing can change how the market perceives your product or service.

Explore these questions before engaging a marketing firm:

  1. Type of Firm: do you want a firm that specializes in the type of marketing help you need right now or would you prefer a firm that covers a variety of marketing methods?
  2. Industry Specific: Do you want a firm that has expertise in your industry or is that not an issue?
  3. Does Location Matter: Does their geographic location matter to you? Are any services outsourced, specifically overseas?
  4. Your Budget: Is it realistic for what you need? Does that limit the prospective marketing firm pool?
  5. Method value: what is their viewpoint on the various marketing methods? Can they work with you on a roadmap? Can they handle bigger projects down that road?

Now that you have a basic idea of what you are looking for it’s time to interview your potential candidates. Find at least 3 companies that look like they fit your needs. Develop a list of questions you can ask to determine whether they really are the right match for you. Those questions include asking for samples of their work, whether it’s asking for links to sites they’ve created if you are looking for web design, samples of logo design or print work like brochures, as well as how they manage their clients and how accessible they are.

If you are looking for help with search engine optimization or search engine marketing, ask them how they handleDesign this for their clients. You’ll find some companies that haven’t really gained a grip on how to help companies with today’s page rankings. Beware of companies that promise or guarantee any kind of ranking results. That’s an empty promise. The more you know, the better off you’ll be.

Interview some of their clients. Ask about timeliness and follow through. How long have they been in business? How long have they been doing the kind of marketing you need? Remember that a lot of firms have had to adapt to the new digital landscape. Some have done this well and others, not so much. By asking specific, pointed questions you can find out how skilled they are, and therefore, how well they’ll be able to deliver what you need.

Example: I talked to a business who needed a mobile-friendly e-commerce website in August 2014. He had very specific needs and was quite clear about what they were, as his current web presence was outdated. He met with a web designer who told him they could do the job. He didn’t take the time to ask them questions, or research the sites they’d done for other clients. He just hired them. Not only did they have trouble delivering the end product, but their communication was lacking. They didn’t understand some of the basic things he asked for. By the time he realized in May of 2015 that they were the wrong firm, he’d heavily invested with them and “now I need to somehow get what I paid for”. Those were months and months he was without his updated “mobile-friendly” e-commerce website.  In that space of time Google started identifying mobile-friendly sites in the mobile search returns (Nov 2014), then began using that as a ranking factor (April 2015), while Bing has announced (May 2015) they are doing the same thing, yet the same years-old site he had last summer, as of yesterday, is still his “web presence”, despite all the money he has invested.

And by all means, trust your gut! If you don’t feel like they are strong with their answers, or the sky is a bit too blue in the sales pitch, walk away. You don’t have to be able to quantify the feeling. Just the fact that you have it is reason enough to look elsewhere.

Finding the right marketing help is something that takes time, energy, and research. Anyone can you tell a good story and do a good sales job. What you want to know is how well can they deliver on what you need.

Marketing today changes quickly. Marketing firms need to stay ahead of the curve, adapt to the new environment, and share their level of expertise honestly with their prospects. You, as the prospect, need to be able to discern who is doing that, and who isn’t.

If you are looking for a hard pitch, wild promises, outrageous guarantees, and loads of upfront money, please cross TABB off your candidate list. If you like to hear what you need to know, not what you want to hear, then by all means, give us a call at 844-TRY TABB.

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