Successful business owners enter the world of entrepreneurship as experts of their particular product and service. Yet, many of these 30.2 million business owners in the U.S. would likely attest that they don’t know what they don’t know.
It’s this self-awareness that leads business owners on a path to hire a marketing agency. Unfortunately, some aren’t quite ready to take this professional leap.
Before you begin the marketing agency search, consider these key points:
Do you have a business plan that defines your short-term and long-term goals?
- products and services
- ideal customer
- Short-term goals
- Long-term goals
- Benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
This is critical information for a marketing agency. Otherwise, you would be paying top dollar for the spaghetti test — throwing out ideas and hoping they work.
Do you have a marketing budget?
The Small Business Administration suggests that small businesses that earn less than $5 million in annual revenue allocate 7-8% of that to marketing. Some sources say new companies that have been in business from 1 to 5 years, should earmark as much as 12 to 20% of gross revenue or projected revenue on marketing.
Take into consideration the costs of marketing set-up fees. Some marketing agencies won’t work with businesses that have poorly designed websites, because they know that their services won’t achieve any goals. If your website is past due for a redesign, be prepared to spend up to $8,000 on a fully optimized website in addition to ongoing marketing support.
Marketing retainers vary in cost depending on need and circumstance — roughly from $1,500 to more than $5,000 per month. Companies with a built-in staff to handle social media marketing and regular e-newsletter, for instance, may not need to spend as much with an agency while small to midsize businesses without in-house support will need to outsource all of their marketing. In some cases, the costs of hiring a marketing agency can equal an employee’s salary with some added financial bonuses:
- not paying employment taxes
- writing the marketing fees off on taxes as necessary expenses to your business
- retaining the professional expertise of multiple people for the price of one employee
Can your business handle a major uptick in growth?
Have you thought about what your business would look like if you received twice as many product orders or more than three times as many service inquiries? Would you be equipped to handle the extra customers? If your business isn’t prepared to handle the growth, don’t spend marketing dollars like you can.
Do you have unreasonable expectations?
Don’t expect a flood of phone calls and emails after only a few days of working with a marketing agency. How soon your business will generate results from marketing often correlates with how much marketing you are willing to invest.
If you pay a digital marketing agency to build a website with only standard monthly web maintenance, you’ll be waiting a long time for the phone to ring.
At the same time, beware of fly-by-night digital marketing agencies that infest the Internet like fleas. They promise page 1 on Google search engine results. Some may even get you there. But after spending a few thousand dollars for Google Pay Per Click Ad Management, did you pay for eyeballs or actual leads?
An inbound marketing agency, on the other hand, targets the right audience with strategic implementation of content, email, social media, search engine optimization and marketing automation. Paid advertising, both online and in print, comes into play depending on the company’s goals and needs. The return on investment when hiring an inbound marketing agency should be gauged by its long-terms gains, not the short-term. In the end, when people pick up the phone to call or fill out an online form, they are pre-qualified and ready to buy. The rest is up to you.
Other expectations to consider are the ones you may have about the agency-client relationship. Like everything in life, there is a good balance between being an active participant in your own marketing and micromanaging. How do you expect an agency to generate results if you aren’t providing feedback? At the same time, if you don’t give the professionals freedom to design and to execute campaigns, this will negatively affect your business.
Expect to feel a little outside of your comfort zone when working with a marketing agency. Successful agency-client relationships happen when both parties are open-minded.
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Step-by-step guide to developing a marketing plan that works for every business — includes free online resources, best practices and worksheets.
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