Tips for Finding Experts in Content and Content Marketing
I do a lot of presentations (and since the pandemic emerged, webinars) on marketing-related topics. When I do, I try to provide as much practical and useful advice as I can. I don’t worry about “giving away my secrets” for a couple of reasons:
- They’re not that secret—they’re just good, proven, elements of effective marketing and communication.
- Telling someone how to do something rarely translates into the ability to actually do that something.
- The small business owners and entrepreneurs—and, often, even senior and very seasoned marketing executives in large organizations—simply don’t have the time to do it themselves.
They often need to call upon others—agencies or freelancers—to help them out. That’s where Strategic Communications, or others like us, come into play.
When You Need Help With Marketing Communications
There comes a point in the life cycle of many businesses when advertising needs outgrow the ability to “do it yourself” and it’s time to call upon the services of a professional agency or consultant. Even small businesses can benefit from the third-party perspective and marketing savvy that experts can offer. There’s a misconception that agencies are too expensive for small companies. That’s not necessarily true. In addition, there are plenty of independent contractors or freelancers offering these services. Prices vary considerably, but it’s fair to say that you will be able to find service providers to fit your budget.
What you should also want, though, is to find a provider that focuses specifically on your needs.
Here are some practical considerations that you should take into account when selecting an agency, or contractor, to help you with your advertising and marketing needs.
Know What You Want
You need to know what you’re looking for before you can tell if you’ve found it! Identify your objectives. What do you want to accomplish? Are you looking for one-time development of image materials (i.e. logo, letterhead, website, newsletter templates, etc.), the development of a campaign, an ongoing relationship? Do you have specific sales targets you want to reach?
Establish Your Budget
What you want is integrally tied to what you can afford to spend. Establish your budget before developing your list of potential resources. Ask business contacts if they would be willing to share with you how they establish their budgets. Or develop your budget based on a percentage of the anticipated sales volume you expect your marketing efforts to achieve.
Know Where to Look
Referrals can be the best source of information about qualified agencies or individuals to work with. In fact, much of our work comes through referrals. Ask colleagues or business contacts about the experiences they’ve had with various vendors and who they would recommend. This can provide you with a list of “first contact” vendors to start your search. Beyond referrals, there are a number of sources of information about advertising or marketing agencies:
- The internet—both general search and sites like Contently, nDash, etc.
- Social networking sites—LinkedIn is our primary source of non-referral leads
- Companies whose advertising you’ve admired
- Trade groups and associations
- Colleges and universities
We covered this topic in more detail in another blog post recently.
Knowing at the outset exactly what you’re looking for is critical. Just as when you’re selecting an employee, you should outline specifically the traits, characteristics, and skills that an agency or contractor must have to meet your unique needs. Some factors to consider:
Sometimes you want someone with industry expertise. Sometimes you want a “fresh perspective.”
Do you want to be a “big fish in a small pond” or a “small fish in a big pond”? There are advantages of working with a large agency—experience, reputation, broad range of expertise and resources. There are also drawbacks. With a smaller budget, you may not get as much attention as the agency’s larger clients. You may be working with “junior” staff members who have limited experience and are “cutting their teeth” on your account.
The size of the agency is often directly related to the cost of the agency’s services. Larger agencies have higher overheads and, consequently, may be priced out of your ability to pay. On the other hand, these higher costs are also associated with access to a broad variety of high-level skills and resources.
Ask each potential vendor to provide you with a list of current and former clients. Contact each client and ask for additional referrals. Find out if these clients have been satisfied with the work produced for them. Do clients feel the work done for them was a good value and investment? Did they experience any problems working with the agency?
You have to “like” the people you will be working with. It’s important to know whether the people you’re meeting with are the people who will actually be assigned to your account. If not, ask to meet these people. Consider how well the people you will be working with understand your industry and your company. Do they ask good questions? Do they listen carefully to your responses? Are they comfortable disagreeing with you based on their expertise and experience (you do not want a partner that simply does what you say—you are not an advertising expert; if you were, you wouldn’t need to work with any agency!).
Finding reliable partners of all kinds is important for any business. It’s said that successful business owners “work on the business, not in the business.” Is it time to look for help with your marketing communication needs?
Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.
(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)
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