How to choose the right marketing company?
A Report by Steve Mills
Let’s firstly look at the questions you should ask.
Should I trust a marketing company at all? To answer this question, let’s take a little look at why people start off in business? There are clearly many reasons, but the overriding ones are:
- a) They are good at what they do and they want to do it for themselves
- b) They want to become wealthy
- c) They want to reduce their working hours
- d) They want to get rid of the idiot they are working for
- e) They enjoy doing what they do and they want to do it even more (usually this involves turning a hobby into a business)
The mistake many business owners make is that they believe that because they are good at doing the work ‘of the business’ that means they can run a business that does that work and it simply is not true!
So the business owner hires an accountant because they know that they cannot do their own accounts and they start off in business, undertaking the operational and marketing side of the company themselves. Anything from six months down the road onwards they realise that their marketing is NOT WORKING!
Then one of two things happens;
1. They either go bust/cease trading (76% of all companies started 5 years ago are no longer trading)
2. They have built a venture that relies solely upon referral for their business and that earns them just enough profit to keep the wolves from the door.
The question is, are you happy with your current profit? The second question is, are you happy leaving your marketing to someone who is not an expert in this field and/or someone who does not have the time to do it anyway? For example - you!
So having identified that you are not happy with the current success of your business and you want to do better and you are not the best person to do this work, let’s look at the options:
- a) You can employ a full/or part time person to do the work
- b) You can externalise this work to a marketing company
The problem with (a) is that you still don’t have a marketing system and unless you pay ‘top dollar’ you are going to get someone with lots of ideas regarding how that can spend your hard earned cash!!!
I remember Sir John Harvey Jones saying that when he took over as CEO of ICI one of the first things he did was to recognise that ICI were wasting about 50% of their marketing budget. The problem is that they did not know which 50% this was!
One thing for certain is that a vast amount of money is wasted on marketing. So the first tip would be to find a company who is not going to waste your money and if they do waste any money at all, it will be wasted on a small conservative test, before any significant money is invested!
So if you do decide to hire a marketing company here are some thoughts. Get it right and you can look forward to huge success. Get it wrong and you could be seeing the end of your business.
So what’s the problem, aren’t all marketing companies great?
Well to be honest no, and we are not wishing to decry our industry, but anyone can set up a marketing company tomorrow and start trading the day after.
There are two essential things you want from a marketing consultant:
- A measurable improvement in profitability (the ‘bottom-line’)
- Continuation of that improvement
Having established what you want – let’s see how to achieve it. First of all, let’s look at some questions for us to ask a potential marketing company, as well as how much do you charge!
- Do you have an understanding of our industry? This one is useful, but not essential, it enables the marketing company to get started quicker, but don’t dismiss a great company just because they have not worked in your industry. Also, beware the specialist who only works in your industry. There is a chance you will end up doing exactly the same as everyone else?
- Do they employ specialists? The company may need to employ people with specialists skills in things like internet optimisation, advertising, PR, etc.
- Do you get an individual account director assigned to your business who is directly responsible for your marketing? Essential! You need to know who is looking after you.
- What is their approach to systems and can they help you to implement marketing, sales and customer service systems? There are many marketing companies out there who will design you expensive leaflets, brochures and websites. But what you need is more ‘profit’ isn’t it? Well helping you to systematise your marketing is one way of ensuring this.
- Are they able to provide you with sales, marketing and presentation skills training? Let us say you get 100 leads from your marketing per month and you only convert 40%. You have just wasted 60% of your marketing budget. By providing your team with cutting edge sales training you may be able to increase your sales conversion from 40% to 50%, or even as high as 60%. What this does is increase the size of your business by 50% even before you start your new highly effective marketing.
- Can they benchmark you with your competition? Knowing how good you are compared with your competition is not only essential; it is also very, very useful. Knowing how good you are compared with the best in your industry is also a great yardstick.
- How much training do their team undertake in order to keep up-to date with the latest thinking in marketing? Marketing is a bit like IT. What you know today bears no reflection on what you need to know tomorrow. Where this training comes from is also a great question?
- Can you have a look at their marketing materials? I know ‘cobblers shoes’ sometimes needs to be considered, but let me ask you a question. Would you go to a marketing company to get your website optimised, if they can’t show you their results? Would you ask a company who had really poor branding to re-brand your company? I am sure you get the message!
- Can you have a look at the marketing materials they have produced for others? The proof is in the pudding! Remember we are not looking for great design. We are looking for results. How well did that leaflet pull? What was its conversion rate?
- Can I speak to your clients? Any company will portray itself as ‘Outstanding’, reality sometimes is not the same, so asking to speak to their clients is often good feedback.
- How good are they at quantifying the effectiveness of the marketing they will be doing for you? ‘Innovation’ and ‘quantification’ are the two key words to consider in your marketing success. One of the last things many marketing companies want you to do is to quantify what they are doing. Find a company who insists upon it as a condition of doing business.
- What is their philosophy on how to build a business? It is an interesting question and the important thing is that it links in with yours.
- What are their customer service commitments? If they are not committed to customer services and have committed to it in writing in the form of a customer service charter, strike them off your list.
- What systems do they operate that will ensure continuity of service (e.g. in the event of your main point of contact being incapacitated)? If you are thinking of employing a ‘one man band’ marketing company. What happens if they break their leg, etc, etc?
- Do they quantify what is working and what is not on a monthly basis? You need a report and an action plan so that you can monitor what is working.
- Do they provide added value products free of charge? OK not essential, but great if they do, as it shows commitment to you as the client.
- Are they insured and if so how much is that insurance worth? It should be at least a £2,000,000 professional indemnity package.
- How will they communicate with you? Do they have a written commitment? Do you have open access during all business hours?
- Will they be able to help me to close the leads that the marketing creates, or will I need to go elsewhere for sales training, systems and support? Wining new business and increasing profits is what effective marketing is all about and NOT producing nice brochures.
- Do they have any testimonials from other satisfied customers? Once again getting someone else’s comment is very useful.
- Are they aware of the five ways of growing a business? All marketing comes down to this! Don’t get led down that ‘garden path’ that you need to win new customers. You do, but this is the hardest, most expensive and least effective way of growing an established business. Ask them “what do you see has the hardest and easiest way of growing a business?
- What is their philosophy regarding advertising? Unless you are a large company with corresponding pockets this is probably your best option for losing your money. That is not to say don’t advertise, it just means advertising has to be good and undertaken in a systematised way.
- How can you increase your business from referral? If the company can’t give you at least five ways of doing so, strike them off!
- Do they have a proven process for profit improvement?
- Will they take the time to learn about your business?
- How much input do they expect from you?
- How comprehensive is their list of services?
- What do they believe makes them unique?
- What proof can they offer?
Also, case studies, testimonials and direct access to their past and current clients would be good!
So there you have it!
Twenty-nine questions you might find useful in selecting the best marketing company for you to work with.
Oh, and don’t forget to ask them how much they charge and if they can help you to understand what your potential return on investment might be.
If you wish to ask The Prudent Marketing Company any of the above questions, simply call us on 01256 242 272.
We would be happy to undertake a FREE Marketing review of your business at no cost to you and answer any questions you may have.
Telephone: 01256 242 272