Lay it on the line, challenge the agency. Make them earn your business.
So, years ago you started your business and all you had were a few bucks, the support of your family, a solid work ethic, a yellow page ad and $10 in business cards. You worked your tail off for the past fifteen years, you’ve lived well, worked hard and you’re no longer a one-person show. Now you employ 50 other folks, and every one of their families is counting on you too.
The problem is you want to continue to grow but no one reads the yellow pages anymore and your small FB ads just aren’t cutting it. Before you roll backwards you know you need to take a big step and really do something to promote your company but you really don’t have the time to figure it out and you don’t know where to start or who to trust.
You know everything about your business, but you know nothing about media and advertising and don’t know which questions to ask or what you need. You have no idea what will work and how much your budget should be to get the job done right and not overspend. So, you drag your feet. Sound familiar?
This is the story of so many businesses every day but there is an answer and a good one at that. It’s called honesty and sometimes in business that can be a scary thing but it’s how you start.
Begin by getting your Girl or Guy Friday surfing the web. Don’t have them just hand you a list of names but have them look for local agencies that display vast experience dealing with other clients similar in size and scope as yours. Have them research the agencies well on-line and come to you with a list of potential agencies. Now it’s your turn.
You need to find time in your day to call each of them and have a very serious and honest conversation. Question their backgrounds, their philosophies, expertise and their past success stories. Be blunt because while you’re no media expert you certainly have enough business savvy to know BS from truth. Begin there and weed at least 50% of them out.
Then it’s time for face to face interviews. Every agency worth its salt and worthy of spending your money should take the time to meet with you in person, make a presentation of sorts but most importantly be willing to listen to you more than wanting to speak. Any agency that just presents and tells you what you need before asking questions, understanding your business, competition and your goals, should be kindly thanked for their time and then walked to the door.
Agencies need to remember they’re there because you have business situations that need to be understood, identified and addressed, so your business can continue to grow and succeed. If they don’t display those traits out of the gate, move on.
A bad agency just talks at you. A good agency will listen and think before they speak. A great agency will listen, then question and possibly question you past the point of your understanding. Then they will do their homework and lots of relevant research that will lead them to suggest certain specific media options that will help you address every one of your business needs. They will dig much deeper than just past the surface.
A great agency will ask you questions that may seem irrelevant to you at first, but they may be very relevant to your situation. And, once they explain their reasoning, their questions will become clearly obvious as to their intent.
Obviously, budgets will need to be discussed, cost of services and commissions will also play into your final decision but don’t go for the cheapest unless you see no difference in the agencies. Pick the agency that spends the time, listens, asks hard questions and then does their research before coming back to you with a plan. And, don’t discount personalities either. You and your staff are going to have to work closely with the agency’s team. Meet their members that will handle your account.
In the end a regional company truly can benefit from taking that next step, elevating their media message and working with an agency. The difference between your failure and success will likely live in the DNA of the agency you choose. Take the time and choose wisely. The results are worth your time.