Finding a Marketing Partner – More Like a Marriage Than a One-Night Stand

happily So, you’ve decided. You need marketing help. Now’s the time to take that walk down the marketing “aisle” so to speak.

Is it because you need to create, or redevelop your brand? Do you want a new marketing plan to jumpstart your growth? Maybe you’re ready to launch that new product, service or campaign? Time to create an updated website? Perhaps your sales team is screaming for an overhaul to their collateral. Or, maybe you’re finally ready to begin producing content that benefits your customers and prospects.

Whatever the marketing need, many growing businesses will be faced with the questions about marketing that businesses have been asking for years, “I know we need help, but where do we start?” Or, “How do I choose the right partner?”

Maybe you’ve never hired a marketing agency or a consultant before. Or, you have and you’ve had mixed results that you’re not prepared to repeat. Maybe you’re a pro or perhaps you’re about to venture into unknown marketing territory for the very first time. Choosing a partner in life, or in marketing, is complicated. Hopefully this will help.


What should you look for in an agency or a consultant?

To answer that question, let’s flip it around by suggesting a few things that you should avoid when seeking and hiring marketing support.

  • Don’t hire a consultant or firm that gives you exactly what you think you need from them. With all do respect, you aren’t a marketing expert or you probably wouldn’t be hiring an agency. So, you’re probably not the best source for deciding what you need from marketing. Instead, be clear on what you need to accomplish. A seasoned marketer should be able to provide you a variety of ways of achieving it. Some you may not even have been aware of.
  • Don’t hire an agency that only provides one line of service. When you identify another need, you’ll most likely have to go through the hiring process again. More importantly, if the agency you hire only sees marketing from one perspective – say digital advertising, you may be doing yourself a disservice, as you won’t get exposed to any other options for achieving your objectives. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
  • Don’t hire a firm or a consultant that begins their presentation telling you all about them. Instead, find one that starts first with learning about you, your business, your industry and your perceived need. My experience is that if the relationship begins by being focused on themselves and not you, it will probably remain that way.
  • Don’t hire a consultant that doesn’t have a variety of testimonials from the happy clients they’ve served to date. In these days of digital transparency, collecting and promoting feedback from clients is an expected business basic, especially in a service business. And it’s a good idea to call a few of them to learn more about their experience and dealings with your prospective service provider.
  • And don’t hire a firm that charges only by the hour. There’s bound to be some of this, but really understand how their fee structure works. Set out clear deliverables (and associated timelines) and clarify what happens should those deliverables not be met. Identify where the additional costs and potential savings lie.
  • Don’t hire an agency that focuses on the, “what” and not the, “why”. Good marketing starts with asking “why” and draws a clear line back to any activity suggested to achieve that why. When you start first with a clear idea of the need and its expected results, then, and only then, can you decided on the appropriate, “what”, or which tactic would be best to accomplish it.

So, with a half dozen things to avoid when looking for marketing support, here’s some equal consideration for some of the things you should embrace:

  • Some experience with your industry. While not mandatory (there’s a lot to be gained from a fresh perspective not mired in your industry and its expected practices) but industry knowledg can help expedite the understanding phase.
  • People you click with. If you “connect” with the person or team, you’ll probably get more from the relationship because it will probably assist in creating improved and enjoyable communication back and forth and throughout the project.
  • Cultural fit. While this one is always hard to define, it helps to do business with a person or a team who share common values. If honesty and transparency are things your company values and your agency dances around key issues, creates vague, unclear or untrue messaging, then this is a disconnect and probably won’t serve you or your marketing efforts well.
  • A team or person that listens. I can’t recommend this one enough. If a team waltzes in and thinks they know the answer without even asking the question, dance them out the door. You want a partner that cares enough to listen and learn about your challenges, and then helps you to solve them.
  • A body of work that demonstrates the extent of their capabilities. Anyone can talk a good game, but the proof is in the body of work, Spend time reviewing their portfolio. See if their “show” matches their “tell”.
  • Strong project management skills. If your prospective marketing partner doesn’t discuss the tools they’ll use to  manage your project or to update you, communicate with you, bill you, etc. then you might be safe in assuming that there is little-defined process in place. The creative process has the potential to go on and on and on. So, unless your budgets do too, look for sound project management and accountability in your marketing partner.

Rather than go on and on myself, I’ll end it here by wishing you the best of luck in finding a marketing partner for the long term.

A good solid marketing “marriage” is apt to serve you much better than a marketing “one-night stand” helping you to achieve and celebrate the milestones and ride out any challenges. If you choose wisely you should enjoy years of marketing bliss that also delivers that highly sought after “happily ever after”.



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