Most industrial companies, large or small, can benefit from having a marketing agency to help strategize, develop plans, buy media, and execute campaigns. With so many marketing channels available and the state of the market constantly changing, it may be tough for any marketer to go it alone. Whether you’re thinking of switching agencies or are in the process of hiring your first one, the first step is to develop a list of agencies (at least three and up to six) that you believe might be a good fit for your company. Referrals are a good source for your list as well as your own search efforts.

Once you have your list, here are some tips to help you make the right choice and establish a solid and successful relationship with an agency.

Know what you need done
Be clear about what exactly you need an agency to do for you. Just some creative work? Help with strategy in the industrial marketplace? Develop content such as white papers, articles, presentations, and collateral? Purchase media?

Approach those agencies that have the resources to fulfill your needs. This doesn’t mean that the agency has to have all of the experts on their staff. Many agencies are “virtual” firms who contract with and manage designers, public relations specialists, writers, media buyers, and others. Neither approach is better than the other. What’s important is that the agency can get done what you need.

Remember bigger isn’t always better
Big agencies with long client lists across many industries may appear impressive, but that doesn’t mean they are the right agency for you. If your marketing budget is small, you might not get the attention you need from a bigger agency. Find an agency that has clients with marketing budgets similar to yours. Ask the agency for references from companies that are about your size and spend about the same as you will.

You’ll also want an agency that knows the industrial sector and has familiarity with your target audience. They should know the relevant media companies that serve the industrial sector. At the same time, you don’t want an agency that works with one of your key competitors.

Another point to keep in mind is that when you bring an agency in to make a presentation, they might wow you with their pitch. But be wary of agencies that use senior executives to pitch and close deals, then assign junior people to manage and work on your account. You can avoid this “bait and switch” issue by asking that the agency brings the people who would be working on your account to the meeting.

Craft a good RFP
Ultimately you will end up putting out an RFP and asking agencies to respond. If you write a good RFP, it will be easier for an agency to respond appropriately with the information you need to compare proposals and make a more informed decision. In the RFP, provide background information about your industry, including its structure, growth, and your company’s position in the market. Describe your company’s history and structure, as well as your current marketing and selling channels. Clearly state the challenges you face, what you want an agency to help you accomplish, and how you define and measure success. Detail the decision-making process you will use in choosing an agency.

You should also include information about your marketing budget, or at least a budget range. This will help agencies self-select (they might remove themselves from the process if your budget is too low) and it will help you get comparable proposals from prospective agencies. If you don’t include budget guidelines, you could end up with wildly different proposals and then end up focusing on the low bidder rather than the agency that knows how to optimize your marketing budget and is the best fit for your company.

Have you hired a marketing agency? What advice would you give a company going through this process? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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