I've been around the block a few times. Well, I mean I've been a marketer for many years, even before you even heard the name Google or Facebook. I may be dating myself a bit but I'm also telling you, I've seen a lot. I've been on the client side, in fact I was there for nearly ten years. Then I was an independent consultant for nearly two years. Next it was time to try out a big agency, nearly 40 employees at the time. Lastly, I have settled comfortably where I am today, a small business that has one goal, helping other small to medium businesses like Calibrate Brands.
Now I am not telling you how you should partner with a marketing agency, but I will tell you is what I've learned over the years and what I see today. We are a small agency, we pride ourselves on the size of our agency and we want to shout it from the rooftops that bigger isn’t better.
As an agency, we don’t want to be bigger. When we say bigger, no big office, 20+ employees, etc. We are an extraordinarily talented and creative team and collectively we believe that the small size of our agency very much contributes to our success. If you are engaging in outside marketing resources for the first time, congratulations on making the investment in your company’s future! If you are a veteran at choosing an agency, maybe this blog article will assist you in finding a long term partner.
Each agency will put their best foot forward for the pitch and your team is tasked to choose an agency that is the best fit, the most creative, strategic and goal-driven; the agency that best represents your brand or product and the one that will help bring your company to the next level. It’s a big decision and one that will, if chosen correctly, give you a huge bump in brand awareness and revenue generation.
Here are five tips or what you should ask yourselves as you look at who you'd like to partner with to help you with marketing and sales.
Coming from a multi-billion dollar company, or even a medium sized agency, one thing always presents a problem, bureaucracy. The bigger you are, the more red tape. That is a matter of fact, just deal with it. Now I am not saying that Calibrate Brands doesn't have processes or "recipes". What I am saying is only a few people are cooking those "recipes". Over the years we have crafted very successful ways to win in SEO, content and traffic building, gain social following, design strategies and help sales teams with the tools they need. In an agency or corporation that does not have consistent staff or leadership that are trained to always follow process, this means everyone cooks the recipes with their own spin, and in this business, that just doesn't work.
Let's face it, this is pretty simple. When you have to support an office of 40, payroll, benefits and insurance, a luxury game room and bar, and the vacations of your CEO, your expenses are high. The only place you can push those expenses downstream is to your customers. The beauty of a home or small office is those costs don't exist. What you are paying for is what you are getting. Now don't get me wrong, it does not mean you want to be the cheapest guy in town, but you can operate in a more lean business model, and thus pass that cost down to your customers. Everyone is happy now!
A huge complaint that I faced in an agency life was "why do you have to do it that way, can't you be flexible at all". I hated having to tow that line all the time, even when deep inside I knew it would have been in everyone's best interest if I was more flexible.
One of the greatest strengths for a small is team is it’s ability to pivot quickly while embracing and implementing new ideas. With smaller teams there is less red tape and politics to deal with. Our focus is you and getting you the best product and service possible.
4) Niche or experience
We have worked with so many verticals over my years of marketing. For nearly ten years it was about staffing and recruiting, essentially one vertical. Then moving into an agency life, it's borderline schizophrenic, you work with whatever sales brings you, and just figure it out.
When I'm asked now "do you specialize in a particular vertical", my answer is emphatically "no". We love the challenge of working with clients that we may have no knowledge of the products and services that they offer. That allows us to get into the head of their prospective customers and think like they would. So often small business owners know their products so well, they forget that their prospective customers may not even know they need these products.
A real-life example comes to my mind. Recently while golfing on vacation I was paired with a third golfer and of course we struck up a conversation. Well come to find out he was recently retired, on the day we played. He was a retired federal prosecutor and was thinking about what he was going to do after he traveled the globe for a year. He asked what I did and explained Calibrate Brands to him and some of our clients. One of our happy clients sells a product that protects data from being "stolen" through windows or glass and he said that he never even thought about needing something to protect data, client data, from being stolen. The point here is that he didn't know he had a problem, and that is exactly how I can craft content and blog topics, as I took the customer problem and backed it into a solution.
For some marketers, it may be critical to have agencies that have niche services. But for others it may not matter so ask them and challenge their philosophy. If they say they have experience in all verticals, run away as fast as possible.
5) WIN TOGETHER
I know this is another one that sounds like a no brainer. However when you are leaner, losing a customer can really hurt the bottom line. When you are more vested in the success of your client, you make decisions that drive the bottom line. In larger agency life, that doesn't mean you don't care, but when you have 10-15 accounts, there is not enough time in the day to care for each one equally.
Lastly, Be Proud of Who you Are
I think it is so important to be proud of who you are. When I was with a large agency, I was proud to be a part of it. I rallied around the brand, the people and our customers. But I got frustrated with SO many parts of the bureaucracy that came with it. Now with a small company, I am as equally proud as now those results come directly from the work we do, along with a handful of consultants when I need their assistance. When someone asks me how big of an agency we are, I proudly tell them. I also tell them of the great successes I've seen for our clients.
Do you want to be next?