In order to help you be effective in hiring an outsourced marketing agency, this article will first teach you what a marketing agency should be doing for your small company.
You’ll also find downloadable resources throughout the article designed to help you through this process – like our Infographic, “Why Hire a Marketing Agency” which outlines the pro’s and cons of both sides.
I’ll also include some other helpful tips along the way.
Part 1: THINK
Understand the Big Picture – Grow Your Level of Capabilities
Question 1: What is a marketing agency and why should small businesses hire one?
Simply put, a marketing agency is there to generate qualified leads for your business.
But, top agencies also add to your team’s marketing and sales capabilities.
Without growth in the capabilities of your team, whether internal or outsourced, you can’t get better as a business or compete with the leading brands.
It’s easy to hire a marketer – and there are plenty of marketing consultants out there who can get your site ranked or run a paid advertising campaign.
But, if your business is ready to systematically improve marketing and (by extension) sales performance, then you need help from an agency who specializes in working with small businesses.
Typically, when business owners and marketing/sales leaders want to increase recurring revenue streams they look outside of their own employees to scale their sales results by building a marketing “system.”
The first mistake people make when they hire a marketing agency is understanding, what does a marketing company do?
Often, the first problem we see is the mindset that everything will all be magically done for them. “Hey, I’m paying an outsourced agency, they’ll handle it.” — this is wrong.
Some companies even mistakenly hire traditional advertising firms and think they are getting a marketing agency. I’ll cover more on that in another post.
Believe it or not, being ‘ready’ to scale a business is a psychological process as well as a business process.
And, like everything else in life, you get out of it what you put in.
This is why developing systematic improvement requires that small businesses develop the discipline around managing their marketing and sales efforts.
You might look at bringing in more leads as a quantitative goal – something you can measure.
The goal of moving from entry-level to dominate level marketing is a qualitative goal – an achievement not necessarily measurable by mere numbers.
Notice it’s not just about being able to perform tasks, but it’s how you and your team think about their work and collaboration with one another.
From another perspective, if you were to hire a single person to ‘help you with marketing’, you would soon find they are not able to do everything and are likely not improving the capability of the team overall.
This is why marketing agencies like Fannit exist.
Good marketing and sales teams understand there are qualitative (non-metric) and quantitative (metric) based goals.
And, in order to increase your chances of achieving your goals, you have to have a plan.
Create a Plan
After many years of trial and error, tens of thousands of dollars in coaching, and partnering with the best marketers in the world… we know deep within our souls that without a plan, our chances of succeeding with our clients drops dramatically.
Plans help describe what tasks will need to be done when. Plans also help us understand WHY we are doing the things we’re doing and who our marketing should be directed to.
A good marketing plan evolves and changes — usually every quarter.
In their simplest forms, marketing plans outline a timeline of work based on research to help tell us which activities yield the best quantifiable results.
More importantly, a good marketing plan provides anyone who reads it with the information they will need to deliver on the plan.
For example, if I’m told to create an email campaign to our past customers I’ll need to know answers to the following questions before a single email goes out.
- What do these past customers care about?
- Who is the type of person we’ll be communicating with? Their persona?
- What are we asking them to do?
- If we’re asking them to download something or go to a certain page on our site, etc.; can we measure if they do it or not?
- When they take action, how are we following up – with an email, or does someone have to call them, etc.?
There are a lot of consultants who can create and send emails for you. But, a good marketing plan tells your team answers to important questions in order for their efforts to be more successful.
Bonus: download this Killer Marketing Campaign Checklist to learn what you need in your marketing plan to be successful. Top marketing agencies who are hired to grow small to medium sized business have a research and discovery process to learn key information about your business.
Important Note About Expectations: if you are hiring a marketing agency to execute only a particular type of campaign (like “run a paid search campaign”) and don’t really care about growing your marketing capabilities, that’s ok.
You’ll just want to make certain you set your expectations correctly about what results your outsourced marketing agency is responsible for.
Top agencies have a desire to learn what you may already know about your business.
They will do their own research because, in order to do a great job of marketing for you, they need to understand the following:
Industry trends – if you want to grow 35% this year, but we find your industry is expected to decrease by 5%, this is a challenge we’ll be facing together.
Competitor analysis – we ask four simple questions:
- What are they good at?
- What are they not good at?
- What can we learn from them?
- What is their core marketing message? We also look at how search engines see their businesses compared to our client’s business.
- Ideal buyers and buyer personas
- Ideal buyers are the companies who buy your products or services (if you are B2B).
- Ideal buyer personas are the people who buy from your business.
If you’re marketing without an understanding of how search engines work, make sure and get up to speed… fast!
Top marketing agencies are aware of how search engines are looking at your business as well as competitors.
Usually, agencies start with an on-site SEO analysis.
As people look at various options for products or services, they form an immediate impression of the companies they look at.
Do you know how to differentiate your business against its competitors?
How are you going to be positioned in the market – value player, market leader?
What is the plan to find your ideal buyer personas and get their attention at the right time?
Core marketing message
This message should speak to your IDEAL buyer personas immediately.
Ancestry DNA’s Core Marketing Message: Discover what makes you uniquely you.
Fannit’s Core Message: growth-driven, engineered, and capable
Many management consultants will tell you to “fail early and fail often, and laugh while you’re doing it.”
This is a great piece of advice, however, that does not mean you need to stumble around in the dark.
Taking 30 days to come up with a marketing plan will benefit your business tremendously and give the people working for you a clear direction.
That said, you can’t be all plan and no action.
Your team must have the skills to perform the appropriate tasks at a high enough level. You can think of the plan as the brain and the task execution as the brawn.
Part 2: DO
How does an agency build a scalable system?
The best workers believe ideas are overrated, execution is underrated.
But, what are we supposed to be doing and why?
That is what a plan with a simple marketing calendar helps us understand.
Having a marketing plan is not just about asking what we are going to do next month, but having a purpose for each effort.
To get to a sophisticated level of marketing, you need a foundation to build from.
The following outline provides you with the foundational tasks
Set up and configure essential technology
There are plenty of marketing automation and CRM technologies available today, but marketing in the modern age requires access to and proficiency of a large and growing set of software tools.
At a very basic level, your business needs to be able to track phone calls so you know how many leads you are getting from new calls (and form entries from your website if you want people to contact you there).
You may want to read Inbound Marketing is Broken if Inbound Sales is Not Included to learn more about inbound sales.
You can also read more about how to prospect for sales here.
Develop branding, message, and design
Let’s face it, we like websites that communicate clearly and look good to the eye.
Web design is essential, so we put together the 25 Website Must Haves eBook that shows you exatly what’s most important.
Content development and promotion
One of the key elements to ranking on search engines is fresh, relevant copy on your website.
Choosing the right type of content can be a daunting task because your content needs to appeal to search engine crawlers and humans who visit your site.
Sometimes small businesses hire an agency to be their content marketing experts because they have people performing other parts of marketing.
We recently discovered another semantic word tool called Answer the Public that helps you discover the right types of questions to ask for content ideas based on keywords a search crawler might be looking for.
Agencies who have a focus on inbound marketing will help you publish and promote blogs and other content on your site,
When you are determining how to choose your marketing firm, make certain they let you know they will be managing off a marketing calendar.
The Benefits of Outsourcing Marketing
1. Lead generation
Now we’re getting to the topic most small business care about.
How does a marketing company help me get (qualified) leads?
This all depends on your business and where you have been getting leads from in the past.
If your business generates leads from your website, like local consumer and professional service companies do, your marketing agency will know how to drive local organic search traffic to your website.
There are several other tactics to help generate leads today.
Once you get the right people looking at your marketing materials, how well do you ‘convert’ them into actual qualified leads?
Every business has different types of people who purchase from them or contract with them.
Finding ideal customers, getting their attention, and letting them know who you are and why they should work with your business is the game we’re all playing.
The more your business can align your message (that appeals to your ideal customers) with the market (people you know who need your services) to the right media (where these ideal customers consume their information), the higher your lead conversion will be.
The science and art behind this is called Conversion Rate Optimization (or CRO).
Top marketing agencies understand this discipline very well.
Once you get a lead in your database, nurturing is a fancy way of saying that you’re sending them emails, retargeting, placing the periodic call, or sending something physical in the mail.
As this information from Statista shows, email marketing still is where people (over the age of 18) are living online.
4. Formal referral building
Businesses of all shapes and sizes get referrals, but very few of them formalize a referral program.
I think it’s because people are so focused on generating new business.
Without getting into too many details…
- Define value for referring parties – why is your offer compelling to them?
- Online review campaigns
- Referral offers
- Testimonial campaigns – one form of a referral is a testimonial.
- Customer loyalty – If you want customers to keep coming back, a good marketing agency will help you define the LTV (Lifetime Value) of your customers and help you think through how to keep them coming back.
- Maintenance plans
- Point systems
Knowing your customer LTV helps you know that when you get a new customer how much they are actually worth to the business.
5. Sales forecasting
First, you have to be measuring what sales is doing and how well they are doing it.
If your business has never monitored sales activities and results with a CRM, then this can sometimes be a shock to your employees.
100% of successful companies know their sales numbers.
Below is an example report available in the HubSpot CRM.
You can see that this sales team is closing in on their quarterly sales quota. They have already closed 61.3% ($168,600) of their quarterly sales goal of $274,998.
Agencies who know how to blend well with your salespeople and are given visibility to sales information will be able to serve your sales needs with greater success.
6. Advanced tactics
Once the basics are in place, your marketing team will be able to investigate more advanced marketing tactics like the following:
- Outbound prospecting
- Video marketing
- Link building
- Paid search advertising
- Influencer marketing
- Social media marketing
- Local SEO
- Television advertising
- Other forms of digital marketing like email marketing
- Radio advertising
- Inbound and content marketing automation and CRM system implementation
- Digital marketing network management (Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) for local service-based companies
- Guest shopping
Marketing agencies may not be able to perform all these advanced digital marketing tactics, but they will have certainly built a professional network that can handle this type of work at a high level of service quality. For instance, you may not have a website design specialist on your team. But, a good marketing manager can find you a quality contractor that works within the parameters of your branding strategy.
That is partly their role for your business, to always be on the search for better ways to improve their abilities.
Truly superb marketing agencies also know that when they hire employees or contractors to work for your business, they look for people who love to constantly improve their capabilities and knowledge in order to bolster the company’s services.
Does hiring a marketing agency work?
Well, I can tell you with 100% certainty, agencies who don’t seek constant improvement with their clients don’t end up working out well.
Part 3: IMPROVE
Be Intentional about Managing Success
It won’t shock you to know the small businesses who set goals typically attain higher levels of financial success than those that wing it.
Follow the Kaizen principle – according to Wikipedia, the term Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement.”
Why is this so important?
(Image courtesy of Leankit showing the continuous improvement cycle)
Most people we run into have watched too many movies where the hero saves the day at the end. This leaves the impression that making big changes can happen all at once.
When we run a marketing campaign, these are the most important considerations:
Regular conversations, standardized tools – there are so many pieces of software available today, it’s hard to keep up. Just like you need to be intentional about your goals and building an identity for your brand, you should determine which tools you need for:
- Social media
- Outbound email prospecting
- Marketing automation
- Customer relationship management
Sales feedback “close the loop” – without feedback from Sales, your marketing team will die a slow death trying to always get more new leads and not learn what makes the best type of leads.
More importantly, if you are not working with Sales you are not going to be able to create the right conversations with leads.
So, when is the right time to hire a marketing agency? Now and 10 years ago.
If you don’t, you can bet the top competitors in your industry are leveraging an agency at least to some point.
If you want to learn WHY you should hire a marketing agency, download our infographic, we hope you find it helpful in your search.
Celebrate Small Wins
Growing and scaling a business is a team sport. Marketing is tough work because it is so competitive out there.
Make sure you select the right players for your team and let them (including the agency you have hired) know they are doing good work.