If you’re beginning here, we recommend that you first take a look at our previous resource entitled “How to interview a marketing agency” as a primer. This discussion is intended as an advancement of the ideas introduced in that earlier iteration and will be helpful after your initial
chemistry meeting with a potential agency partner. The ideas explored here are intended to help you parse the nuances of what a potential agency partner might have to offer and how they prefer to work.
Ask About Brand Building Versus Lead Generation
When companies first contract with a marketing agency, often the first order of business is an audit of the company's brand identity and the viability of that branding as a means of conveying what that company has to offer within its market. In carrying out this audit, the agency should evaluate the efficacy of the present branding in the context of products on offer, company mission and value statements, and marketing goals. This moves beyond issues of simply looking professional—a functional website and a presence on major search engines are high priorities. This audit is intended to evaluate how a company’s branding and presence resonates with its target audience and to ensure that the branding is congruent with what the company is attempting to do. For example, a law office attempting to reach new markets in copyright law should not use the same branding as a firm specializing in family law and the marketing strategies for each of those firms should be heavily divergent.
If the branding is effective and cohesive, the marketing agency can get right to work building that brand awareness. If the branding is off, or if the agency suspects it will not be successful, they might recommend an overhaul of varying proportions. Investing in your company’s branding can be expensive, but it is crucial. Like any good industry partner, your marketing agency will tailor their services to your budget.
Skipping this step puts the cart before the horse, as intentional and strategic lead generation will build from strong brand awareness These two initiatives should be undertaken in tandem. It’s important, therefore, to ascertain just how, and why, a potential marketing agency strikes their particular balance between these initiatives. Simultaneously building out a brand and rolling out a lead-generating strategy maximizes the impact of both processes.
Ascertain, in Broad Strokes, the Agency’s Strategies
Strategy in marketing needs to be tailored to a given company just like branding is. The same tactics do not work for everyone across industries and your agency should know this. Following your initial chemistry meeting and proposal, you should feel comfortable inquiring about specifics. What does the agency team recommend to achieve your company goals, and why? Do they feel your goals are achievable or relevant to your industry; if not, why?
A potential agency partner should be able to answer these questions in detail. Business relationships are not spurred by using the correct hashtag at the right time of day on the right day of the week; a holistic strategy to connect with potential customers that is both robust and specific is the most effective way to build business.
For example, our research shows that developing regular industry content and white papers for circulation within our partners’ industries and their tertiary connections is successfully connecting them with customers in logical, mutually beneficial relationships. By carrying out original research and sharing information, our partners are able to elevate and assist their entire industry, while also establishing themselves as reliable and trustworthy among their peers.
On Industry Expertise
All marketing expertise is not equal and most marketing expertise is neither applicable nor appropriate for every industry. For this reason, it is crucial to ascertain the depths and limitations of your agency’s experience and expertise in your industry. Industry knowledge is inextricable from the strategy that your potential agency partner would use to grow your brand and develop new leads. You could ask: how much work have you done in this industry? What kind of success did you see? How would you go about defining a new target audience that we haven’t reached yet? And how would you strategize to connect with that audience in a meaningful way?
Thankfully, expertise can be taught and your agency can work to verse your assigned team in the specifics of your industry. In this case, the knowledge gathered by your agency should not be superficial; just like you, peers within your industry will know if an agency is using words and concepts they don’t completely understand. You should anticipate a certain amount of collaboration as your potential agency situates themselves within your industry. While it is beneficial to consider agencies with built-in expertise, if you communicate better with an agency from outside your industry, it may be well worth your time and effort to build on that relationship.