For a while I worked at a large catalog company.
During my time there I learned about business dynamics, which was awesome. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to work with really smart people that also happened to be very kind. It might have been the fact that it was small town Wisconsin, but it always made me feel good to go into work. I always felt like I had to play keep up each day to make sure I came with my very best because everyone else was so good.
One thing I learned in the company was how some companies take on different dynamics when it comes to what you do best. At that company I felt it was really the marketing department in coordination with the merchandising department that kind of directed the company.
I don’t think it was always that way. I think, like many companies, it started out strictly focused on the merchandise. And as the business matured it became more of a marketing company where the people in-house where marketers with great minds and skills.
Something that was interesting, though, was that any time the company was looking to expand they always brought in outside people to help them learn about new technologies, merchandise and marketing efforts. That made an impression on me. It let me know that you don’t have to do everything on your own. You can be successful and usually more successful if you partner with other people that know different things.
That’s why I think hiring a marketing agency makes sense for a lot of companies. I think it makes sense for new companies that have great products, but want to expand and take their products to larger audiences. I think a marketing agency makes sense for a company like the one I worked for that is making a transition from maybe something like catalog to online.
Here are some things I’ve observed over the years that I think are important when hiring a great marketing agency.
Make Sure They Understand Three Things…
There are three things we start with at GBW for every new client. We always ask about:
- The Business
- The Product
- The Customer
Those three things are huge and if you’re looking for any good marketing agency you have to find someone that is willing to understand those three things.
The fact that you’re hiring an agency in the first place is an indication that you’re in a transition stage. So these three things will likely change at least somewhat, but there will always be core elements of your business that don’t change. It might be the personality of the people that work for you and your brand.
Your products may change, but the core idea of the type of products you offer will stay the same. The customer you cater to will change, but maybe now you’re just focusing on the next generation.
Things will change, but always keep in mind that your marketing agency needs to understand your business, your product and your customer.
Cut The Cord With The Past
This is one I’ve been learning over the last few years. The big push when I first started in the marketing world was multi-channel. It seemed like a great idea, but I had no idea if it was or not. I figured it was.
The idea was that the best way to take advantage of the online world was to combine it with retail, catalog and every other marketing channel out there. It was the multi-channel world.
The more I read from other smart marketers out there like Kevin Hillstrom the more I realize that people don’t really work that way. We might watch a few different channels and we might respond to different channels, but ultimately we have preferred channels.
As we grow up from being young kids to young adults to mature adults we develop trust with certain channels. For my parents it was the catalog and retail world. For my generation it was first catalogs when we were young, but as we became young adults it was ecommerce and today a few of us are trusting with the mobile world.
To get with a marketing agency today I think you have to understand the difference in how people interact with channels. A customer that is 21 years old is not going to pay much attention to a catalog. A customer that is 65 probably isn’t going to purchase your app.
Age makes a difference and so do some other demographics.
Your marketing agency needs to understand this difference.
Those are the two things I think make the biggest difference when picking a marketing agency today. There are also some smaller things like how you feel when you correspond with the people. Make sure they meet your expectations for response. I think that’s important.
I also think it’s important that they take their own medicine. If they’re going to be carrying out marketing campaigns for your business feel free to ask them how they do their marketing. It will probably be different since you have different ideal customers, but make sure they can follow through on their own efforts.
At GBW, we take pride in the fact that we bring in new traffic and customers via our blog. We commit to our blogging schedule. I figure that if we’re selling blogging we need to make it a point to maintain a blogging schedule.
So make sure your marketing agency believes in what they’re doing enough to do it for themselves. Surprisingly, not all of them do.
Image: Nathan Penlington