Choosing a Small Business Marketing Firm
Choosing the right marketing firm for your small business is no different from selecting a product from a store; if you don’t know exactly what you want, you are likely to go for the most convincing salesperson around you. It is easy to fall for marketing people when there are hundreds of them and each one is trying to showcase their expertise and abilities just to entice customers. This is why it is important to know what is really needed to make your business a successful one. When it comes to marketing for any small business, the stakes are high.
Marketing and sales efforts provide the growth your company needs, so not investing in marketing is not an option. Plus, you can get a team of professionals for the same amount or less than you would pay one employee by hiring a small business marketing firm.
Let’s discuss how to choose a small business marketing firm.
Identifying What Your Business Needs
Start by taking inventory and assessing your current marketing situation. Ask yourself the following questions?
- Do you have a compelling message and clearly defined value proposition?
- Do you know who your target market it?
- What is the lifetime value of your customer? What is an acceptable cost of acquisition?
- Are you ready to advertise, or do you first need to refine your marketing message?
If you have clear answers to the above questions, then you need a firm who can translate your marketing message into profitable campaigns that will yield leads and sales. But, if you have a diluted or weak value proposition, you may need to first invest in some internal marketing workshops or seek a marketing firm who specializes in helping companies craft strategic positioning.
Once you know where you are in the process, you will need to identify how to reach your target market. Some firms specialize in Internet marketing (like we do), while others have deep experience in TV, local markets or direct mail. You should be choosing a small business marketing firm that you believe can reach your target market.
What Makes a Small Business Marketing Firm Successful?
A clear understanding of your business model and target market is critical in achieving success in marketing. Your #1 decision making criteria for choosing a firm is your belief that they can understand your business model and ultimately find ways to attract new customers. Since a firm may not be able or willing to put together a plan before you hire them, look for examples of other clients they have worked with and ask them to explain the company’s business model and how they were able to add value.
The second point of focus when evaluating a marketing firm is their proven ability to attract targeted leads or buyers to their client’s business. This will likely mean phone calls, emails, website visits, walk-ins, etc. A great example is looking at how you found this firm. Did they use an effective marketing campaign to attract you or the person who referred you?
I believe that the most effective service firms have a repeatable process that they can demonstrate to you for solving problems like this——regardless of the client’s market or situation.
Now that we’ve defined what attributes will make a marketing firm successful, let’s walk through the process for choosing the right firm.
How to Choose a Small Business Marketing Firm
Make sure the firm takes the time to ask you about your business model. If they aren’t interested in the potential clients you are trying to attract, or what value you have that is unique, then I would be very worried about their approach to marketing. The best firm will be able to demonstrate that they have experience with your target market and/or can reasonably demonstrate a process for discovering that.
Evaluate their own marketing. Marketing firms seem to be notorious for not handling their own marketing. And, while this may be due to a focus on their clients, the really great marketing firms I’ve worked with always had effective marketing of their own. If you have the chance to work with anyone you want, why not select a firm who can market their own services well in addition to great client case studies.
Most importantly, once you’ve had some discussions and they have proposed a solution for you, ask them to define success in this relationship. Early in my career a very successful client asked me to define the successful outcome of a project before he would sign the agreement. This has always stuck with me, and we still ask clients to define their version of success when we kick off new campaigns. If a marketing firm can’t clearly articulate the successful outcome they expect from the project or relationship, then they may not have a clear outcome in mind.
And, you know what Yogi Berra says about not knowing where you are going!