As the U.S. and world economies bump along the bottom, customers repeatedly ask their marketing agencies (among other vendors) to do more with less. Our agency is no different.
Many clients have the perception e-mail marketing, social media marketing, and "guerilla" marketing tactics are great ways to save money. And yes, those channels should be considered a part of the marketing mix…but not solely on the basis of cost savings.
For some clients a social media campaign may bear little fruit. That's why you should view your marketing agency as your partner in achieving your sales goals.
So how can you be sure you're getting what you pay for? Here are seven things to think about:
1. Be sure you can measure it. Aside from broadcast television/radio and magazine advertising, most marketing channels today offer at least some ability to measure performance. Satellite radio and cable television offer better tracking capabilities than broadcast, and these capabilities will only improve over time.
2. Set a realistic marketing budget. Your budget should be aligned with your sales goals, with a clear depiction of how a successful marketing campaign will be evaluated. Low/medium and out-of-the-park scenarios should be included.
I've seen far too many "budgets" that are very small and totally out of line with their objectives: "We want to sell $20 million worth of our product/service and we have a marketing budget of $100,000." How exactly is that supposed to work? Is 200 times your investment an achievable goal?
3. Be prepared for the possibility some tactics may not work. If you eschew all or most traditional marketing channels in favor of new media marketing, there's no guarantee they'll be effective.
Sure, it's possible you'll extend your marketing budget, but by ignoring traditional channels you're potentially ignoring many current or potential customers who don't use social media.
4. Allow your expert partners to do their jobs. It sometimes seems like everyone wants to play art director or copywriter. Client-side ideas are very valuable (after all, you know the product or service best), but would you make tweaking suggestions to your doctor or attorney? Not likely.
Marketing agencies are staffed with professionals, just like your doctor's or lawyer's offices. Years of training and experience have gone into their decision-making processes.
5. Incentive-based deals are acceptable for marketing agencies. For certain products this may not be true, and an agency willing to take some of its final compensation on the back end still needs to be compensated along the way. But if you enter into a speculative deal, it should be a deal you would want for yourself if the product truly excited you. "You win, they lose," is not a basis for a successful long-term partnership.
6. Ask your marketing agency to provide prices for creation of different channel efforts. Remember, you're the client, so it's not taboo to ask what their services cost. How much is a print ad? An e-mail or survey? A direct mail package? An outdoor ad? A PURL campaign? Writing a broadcast or cable spot?
Even asking what setting up a Facebook fan page or handling a Twitter feed will run you isn't out of bounds. If your agency isn't willing to give you information like this, you may want to look around.
7. Allow your marketing agency at least a year to leverage their understanding your business. Yes, in some instances you'll know relatively quickly that the fit is wrong. But all the time invested in bringing your agency up to speed will be lost if you change agencies like you change socks.
Don't be hesitant in discussing your marketing budget with you marketing agency. Let them tell you what they feel can and cannot be done. Both parties will come out of that discussion with a much better idea of the expectations and deliverables.
Mark Kolier is president of the direct and digital marketing agency CGSM.