5 Questions to Consider Before Hiring a Marketing Firm (Part I)
By Kristy L. Gusick Read Thinking About Hiring a Marketing Firm? Part II here. You know better than to jump into a working relationship with a blind eye. As a discerning professional, you qualify everyone—from clients to vendors to support staff—to make sure they are the right match for you and your business. The same goes for hiring a marketing firm. You know you should be asking questions, but you may not be aware of the differentiating factors between firms. These little differences will help you make a decision and find the perfect match. Here are the questions you should consider before you hire a firm for your marketing needs:
1. Are they a Marketing Firm or an Ad Agency?
Many people don’t quite understand the difference between marketing and advertising. Marketing is the research, strategic planning, and implementation of promotional activities that drive towards engaging potential clients. Advertising is an important part of marketing—the promotional vehicle—but it’s just one slice of the pie. If you have a goal but aren’t quite sure how to get there, you need a marketing team. If you have an existing strategy and know exactly how you want to share your message, you should engage an advertising agency. In today’s marketplace, most marketing firms do advertising and vice versa. But it’s important to know where their strengths lie and how they align with your expectations.
2. What type of marketing do they do?
Different marketing firms have difference specialties, which you will want to identify and compare to your priorities. Some firms thrive in the digital medium while others may have a tight grip on PR. There are specialty firms that only build websites and others that focus on direct mail. Before you engage, you’ll want to make sure that your expectations fall under the umbrella of their capabilities and expertise. Know their menu (so to speak). That way, you won’t be stuck in a situation where you’re trying to order sushi at an Italian restaurant. Even if they manage to stuff cannelloni with the right ingredients—will it really be that appetizing?
3. How do they charge?
This is a simple question that has probably already crossed your mind. You will want to know if there is a flat fee per project, an hourly rate, a monthly retainer, or a commission based on sales. Will they present a budget for your approval? How are overages approved? If the firm is only commissioned for a certain project, you will have to renegotiate for each subsequent project. Hourly work on larger projects is risky without an estimate and an established budget. A monthly retainer is hourly work towards project goals with a set expense each month. A retainer also allows you the freedom to swap priorities midstream if different opportunities arise. Each of these arrangements has its pros and cons depending on your situation. You can also ask your potential marketing firm if they are willing to work out a contract utilizing more than one of these methods. You may get by with a smaller monthly retainer, for example, if you are ready to pay for larger projects on a case-by-case basis. At the end of the day, you just want something that is right for you.
4. What are your deliverables?
Deliverables are the materials you expect to possess at the end of a project. For example, imagine that you are rebranding your firm. At the end of the process, will you have a logo kit? Or are you expecting a logo kit, business cards, style sheet, rebranded materials, focus testing, and an updated website? Expectation transparency is one of the most important things in selecting and working with a marketing firm. Make sure you are on the same page and you will never be disappointed.
5. What is the timetable?
Again, this is all about bringing your expectations to the surface. Knowing your deliverables, any firm worth their salt should be able to give you clear idea of the amount of time it will take to complete a specific project. With this knowledge, you can work together to prioritize your marketing activities and hold your marketing partner accountable.