How to Choose an Advertising Agency

A recent Maven post — How to Know When You Need an Advertising Agency — offers guidelines on how to answer that question for your company. If your answer is yes, the following tips will help you choose the agency that’s right for your industrial business.

Pick the right advertising agency, and you can gain new creative ideas, stronger messaging, better targeting, reliable resources, campaign efficiency and other benefits that directly impact the return on your marketing investment. Here’s what to do:

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Clarify your goals
Before you approach any agency, be clear among your internal team about what you need an agency to do for you. Creative work? Help with strategy in the industrial marketplace? Sort out the most effective channels in the digital era? Develop content such as white papers, articles, presentations, and collateral? Purchase media?

Not all agencies do all types of work; therefore, knowing your goals will help you create a short list of agencies to contact. You should be able to find a list of services offered on any agency’s website.

Evaluate several agencies
Compare a number of agencies; 3-4 might be a good number. Each will bring its own style, way of working, along with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some might be able to wow you with great creative ideas. Others will demonstrate operational expertise: they can manage, deliver, and implement. The best agencies do it all.

You will be working closely with your agency team. Meet them early on, before you commit. Like any successful working relationship, you need to have a level of comfort and confidence with the people on the day-to-day team, in addition to the executives who might be present to pitch their business to you.

Large or small agency?
Larger agencies have more resources and experience. But you may not get the attention you need if your budget is modest. Smaller firms may be more personal. But they might not have the resources and expertise to fulfill a range of needs.

One approach is to look for an agency that serves clients similar to yours: B2B, industrial (but not competitive), with similar budgets as you will have. Ask the agency for references from these types of clients.

You’ll also want an agency that knows the industrial sector and your target audience. They should know the relevant media companies that serve the industrial sector and be up to date on the most effective marketing channels to help you achieve your goals.

Craft an effective RFP
You may end up putting out a Request for Proposal (RFP) and asking agencies to respond. If you write a good RFP, it will be easier for an agency to respond appropriately. You will then have comparable proposals and can make a more informed decision about which agency to choose.

In the RFP, provide background information about your industry, including its structure, growth, and your company’s position in it. Tell about your own company’s history 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. If you don’t include budget guidelines, you could end up with wildly different proposals that are difficult to compare to each other.

See their work
The first place to see an agency’s work is on their website. Agencies often publish cutting-edge websites with the latest features and functions, but their website must also meet your communication needs. Can you find what you’re looking for? Do you understand their scope of services? Is it easy to make the next step?
Also, ask for samples of their work. Look for B2B campaigns or work performed in the industrial sector. Look for campaigns that are similar to your goals, whether it’s re-branding, building awareness, or boosting lead generation. Seeing how an agency handled these types of projects for other clients will give you an idea of how they might handle yours.

Seek compatible work processes
Ask an agency about their process for interacting with clients. Will you have weekly meetings/conference calls? Or check-in only when needed? Does each side have a go-to point person in the relationship? Do you share a calendar or task list? Companies work differently and there are different approaches to working together. Find and agency that fits your work style and comfort zone.

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Have you gone through the process of selecting an agency? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How to Know When You Need an Advertising Agency

It’s a question every industrial company, both large and small, faces eventually: do you need to hire an advertising agency? Or if your company used an agency in the past, and the relationship ended, for whatever reason, could it be time to revisit that decision?

A good agency can bring a lot to the table: creativity, fresh ideas, expertise in channels, production power, and intimate knowledge of your markets and target customers. On the other hand, your marketing machine might be producing just fine on its own. Or perhaps you’re not sure if an agency is a good fit for your situation. Or you’re reluctant to make the investment in an agency.

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We’ll tackle these questions in a two-part series. This first post will help you determine if you need to work with an advertising agency. In the next article, we’ll offer advice on how to choose the right agency for your needs.

If any of the following scenarios describe your current situation, it might be time to consider searching for the help of an agency.

Internal disagreement. For a variety of reasons—from personal feelings to organizational politics to differing skill sets—you might be dealing with multiple internal points of view on how to position, message and market your company, brand and products. In any company where smart people work, it’s not an uncommon situation that there are differences of opinion.

How an agency can help: An agency offers an external point of view, which can often serve as a fresh breath of air that helps unify your marketing vision and goals. An agency is also accustomed to synthesizing multiple opinions and accommodating the needs of a variety of stakeholders.

A tough marketing challenge. You’ve been wrestling with a marketing challenge for far too long and still haven’t won, such as: Your key marketing messages aren’t resonating. You’re having trouble building brand awareness. Your target audience isn’t engaged. Channels that once delivered have dried up.

How an agency can help: An agency will offer fresh ideas to solve your specific problem. You don’t have to hire an agency to be “your agency of record” and handle all of your marketing. Many good agencies will take on a specific marketing challenge or project work. You’ve probably been spending too much time on one thing anyway.

New channels to master. Almost all industrial marketers continue to shift a greater percentage of their marketing budget out of traditional channels and into digital marketing. That’s a smart move, because digital is where technical professionals are. But there are many choices, digital-wise: websites, online events, banner ad networks, search ads, social media, online catalogs, e-newsletters and more.

How an agency can help: Agencies tend to stay up up-to-date on what marketing channels deliver the best results for different types of businesses. A good agency will have expertise in the digital world.

Major rebranding. There’s a lot of work to do, not to mention risk and uncertainty to bear, in launching a major rebranding of products or your company. Everything has to come together and fit together: look and feel, messaging, marketing strategy. Can you or your team do it all?

How an agency can help: More than just serving as a fountain of creative ideas, an agency can help make sure all of your efforts add up to a unified whole. They will have a long and deep checklist of everything that needs to be done for rebranding, from high level decisions to the smallest, most detailed task. And an agency will know how long things take to get done.

Exploring new markets. Not all markets and industries are the same. Marketing that works in one may not work in another, so you can’t necessarily do things the same old way when you’re trying to break into a new market and you may not have the time or budget to learn as you go.

How an agency can help: Agencies can offer expertise in a variety of markets. They know through experience what channels and tactics might work in a market you aren’t that familiar with.

Lacking ideas. Your marketing has gone dry and stale: you know it, your boss knows it and your customers know it. Same old programs, same familiar message, same middling results. But you’re stuck because you don’t have any new ideas or you’re just not feeling the creativity muse.

How an agency can help: If you’re in need of innovative ideas and creativity, you’ll find them in an advertising agency. And an agency isn’t afraid to offer up radical ideas that would never have been generated within the walls of your company.

Gap to fill. You just don’t have enough people, resources and ideas to get all the work done. Maybe you’re launching a new product or merging two companies or missing a badly needed skill set on your marketing team.

How an agency can help: Many agencies have a surprisingly broad range of expertise in all things B2B marketing related: from identifying viable channels and delivering creative, to producing content, conducting research, growing social media, and building websites, managing programs, buying media and more. If you need it, an agency can probably do it.

If this article was helpful to you, please spread the word by using the share buttons below.

Have you considered hiring an advertising agency? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Marketing Strategy Marketing, General