Specialization of labor is a prime mover in the advancement of society and is responsible for many systems that keep the economy growing. It’s better to let an engineer design a product than teach an accountant to do so. And it’s better to let a programmer program, a machinist machine, a salesperson sell, and a shipper ship than to train one person to do all of the above.
The task of marketing is no different. Marketing is a specialized skillset that is developed through education, experience, and practice. Those in marketing must maintain a specialized set of tools and concepts that are not innate to the general population.
As companies grow, many begin to understand that marketing, like many other divisions of labor, can be better done by an outside agency. Maintaining technological overhead, keeping up to date on the latest research and marketing trends, and streamlining a necessarily fluid, flexible, and creative process often proves too expensive and too burdensome to remain in house. Whether as a one-off project or as a complete outsourcing, marketing is often done better, more economically, and more efficiently by a professional marketing agency.
Deciding to hire an outside marketing company is a big step in any business venture. You’re entrusting a third party with the wellbeing of your company, committing valuable resources to an entity beyond your immediate, personal control. Your marketers should be more equipped, educated in specific areas of knowledge, and able to advance your creation beyond that of which you are capable. Unfortunately, some less-than-noble marketing agencies take advantage of clients and sell a generic, basic marketing package, with little attention paid to your specific needs.
We at 212 Media Studios prefer to do business differently. We suggest that before you commit to a marketing partner, you pose some of these questions to determine where your agency’s true interests lie.
1. How do you track success?
Any legitimate marketing agency should be able to explain how they measure success. Using tools like website and social media analytics, or more in-depth measurement tools like focus groups, surveys, and analytical software, a good agency will gather and process feedback and data as to which messages are working, and which ones need to be adjusted. These tools are also useful for measuring reach, scope, demographic data, and other effectiveness among consumers. If certain messages fall flat, then a good marketing agency will be able to identify the cause and refine accordingly. A legitimate agency will explain and demonstrate why certain messages are good for mass audiences and why others work for very specific, niche audiences. If a marketing partner doesn’t offer these tools to your organization, walk away.
2. Who do you see as my target demographic?
A good marketing agency will have a solid understanding of societal, cultural, and business trends and will be able to tell you which products are popular, which messages work, and why. A legitimate agency knows, for instance, that people who vote Republican buy more Ford F-150 pickups, people who vote Democrat buy more Subaru Outbacks, and they will be able to explain why this is the case. Most products or brands follow similar divisional trends, whether of a political, socioeconomic, religious, or educational nature. A good agency will not agree with your ideas just for the sake of taking your money. Instead, a good agency will be honest and tell you if your product or marketing is misdirected, and will help you find the appropriate demographic. A good agency will exhibit integrity and will tell you when something is wrong. A good agency will be able to point to researched, documented trends and explain why an idea will or will not work, given your target demographic.
3. What experience do you have reaching my audience?
Successful marketing is not a guessing game, and there is no one-size-fits-all technique. A legitimate marketing partner will demonstrate a solid grasp of your intended audience and have experience working with that audience. The ability to anticipate problems and foresee obstacles is a skill that develops over time, honed by years of learning from experience. A legitimate agency will be able to point to examples from other campaigns they have previously conducted, explain the differences and similarities between those and your business situation, and formulate a unique plan that addresses your specific goals and audience. There is no equivalent to experience.
4. Why do you recommend these tactics?
If your agency cannot explain why they recommend a specific approach, find another partner. A good agency can explain, in great detail, why the recommended process will work. They will be able to describe why one kind of media, in each specific case, is preferable the other forms of media. They will be able to elaborate on the importance of timing, audience psychology, cultural factors, and how each influences the reception of a specific message. These are areas of tremendous scholarly research, and marketing professionals pride themselves on keeping up with the latest in such sociological and communicative scholarship, all to ensure their clients are privy to the best marketing tactics.
5. Why did you develop this strategy?
Many clients ask this important question as a way to gain confidence in their chosen agency. We recommend first asking yourself if you were a part of the strategizing. A legitimate marketing agency knows that no plan will be effective unless it is created in collaboration with the client. Such collaboration requires that your agency listens and learns as you share your vision. Only then should the marketers go to work, exercising their skillsets to create, strategize, and move your vision from a dream to a reality. After the creative process is complete, a good agency will be able to explain why their strategy will be successful. They should point to research, or previous experience, that lends weight to their decision. If, after contacting an agency, you are handed a strategy that does not take into account your specific goals, or the agency cannot explain why their recommended strategy will work, walk away.
6. What results do you expect from this marketing plan?
Determining results requires first setting a comparison baseline. In each specific measure, from where are you starting? This may require a great deal of research into your company’s industry, or into the economy of your business location to determine your current status. Or, it may be as simple as examining your organization and your competition and assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats of each. In any case, a good agency will work with you to help you first understand the situation, and then set realistic goals, whether increased market share, exposure, or profitability. Realistic is the operative term here. In truth, successful marketing typically results in subtle shifts in consumer thinking that yields small but compounded effects. As a strategy kicks in, and a brand begins to develop, payoffs are often found in the medium and long term. Look for honest feedback and realistic expectations from your chosen agency. If what’s promised seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Do these questions have you thinking? Join us next time when we look at the remaining five!