When you are running a small business, it can feel overwhelming to try to “wear all the hats” to get things done. You have to be the new business development and sales manager, the accountant, product development, HR (even if you’re a solopreneur, you still have to take care of yourself!), marketing director, operations director, etc. You get the picture. It can be overwhelming to stay on top of everything while ensuring your business is growing at a rate you are happy with.
Perhaps you have thought about hiring someone, but you can’t necessarily cover a full monthly salary cost. You could consider an intern, but they may not have the experience necessary to get you to where you need to be. One option you may not have considered is hiring an agency to take care of your marketing efforts.
Maybe you aren’t ready to work with an agency to take your marketing off your to do list, but if you are, here are six things to look for in an agency.
- Chemistry: Sometimes you will have the option to “date before getting married” if you have a smaller project you want to work on before signing a longer-term commitment. This isn’t always the case, but either way you want to make sure that you have a good fit with the agency. They should uphold the same business values and ethical standards that you do as they are representing your brand.
- Budget transparency: It can be easy to take a “budget” at face value, but make sure you clarify all that is included in the budget. One of the biggest issues to cover is whether you are working on an hourly basis or with a set fee. If you are working hourly, you may be surprised when you get your bill at the end of the month as it might be higher than what was quoted. Negotiating a set fee will ensure you don’t pay for any overages in hours worked.
- Nothing is guaranteed: Be wary of any agency that will “guarantee” you specific results such as “We’ll get you TV coverage” or “We’ll guarantee you xx number of media hits” or even “We’ll guarantee you 50,000 followers within the first month.” I have worked with many clients who have been attracted by these guarantees only to find that they are empty. The key is finding an agency who is as invested in your success as they are their own. It should be more like a partnership than two separate entities.
- Know what success looks like: Work with your agency to determine how you will know when your campaign has been successful. Every industry has certain metrics they track, and they all mean different things for brands.
- Check their track record: A great agency will be able to put you in touch with current and former clients who will sing their praises. At the very least, they should be able to provide you with case studies of clients who have similar goals to your own. Just because an agency has a lot of clients listed on their site doesn’t mean they are the best at what they do.
- Know your account team: Don’t be afraid to ask who will be working on your account. It is common in a lot of agencies to sign a contract and then have the interns working on the bulk of the work to create higher profit margins for the agency. If you are concerned about this, just ask. Again, this is your brand, and you deserve to know who will be representing you to your audiences.
Candace Huntly is the Founder and Principal at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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