What Do You Mean “It’s Not a Real Marketing Agency?”

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Is your marketing being created by a marketing professional or a company who is disguised as a marketing agency? It seems like a strange question coming from an owner of a marketing agency, but over the past few weeks, I have received an increase in clients coming to our agency after hiring another “marketing agency” and not being satisfied.

This is what happens when you have an unregulated industry – anyone, without any marketing training or expertise, can open up shop and offer marketing services. I am all for enterprising ideas, but the issue here is that it is often the SMB owners who suffer at the hands of these so called marketing agencies, and this undermines our industry and leads to a sentiment of discontent by many SMBs who feel marketing agencies don’t really help them grow their business.

As it stands, it seems to be an endless cycle of SMB owners digging deep into their pockets with little return. Often the cycle is a SMB feels they have a marketing problem but they are not exactly sure what the problem is. They consult a marketing agency; the agency creates an online marketing campaign or integrated solution and the SMB sees some results, but after a few months of continuous investment and no results, they become disillusioned with what marketing can do to increase sales.

How can we stop the cycle? Education. I’ve outlined some key lessons for SMB owners who are looking to hire a marketing agency:

1. The term marketing company has come to mean different things: everything from a company than sells mugs, pens, and other promotional trinkets to an online marketing company. A true marketing agency is one that offers strategic guidance for your company.

2. When you are reviewing marketing agency sites, spend the time to really read the words they’ve chosen. Although it may say “marketing,” are they referring to integrated marketing, online marketing, branding or websites? If they say terms like strategic marketing, do they show examples or feature client testimonials that highlight this expertise? What exactly are they offering?

3. A marketing agency should have an understanding, if not internal resources, to handle market research. Research is a fundamental of true marketing as it helps marketers establish consumer and client needs and experiences, benchmark results, test advertising direction, brand experience, as well as develop competitive analyses.

4. Marketing is not all “glam”. At its core it is all about planning and measuring results.  You have to have a strategic marketing plan in place. It will tell you who you are, why you are unique (USP), what the industry is doing, what your competition is doing and outline the steps to get you to where you want to go.  It is the “holy grail” for marketing success.

5. Unless you are looking for a quick fix or you already have a strategic plan, your marketing agency should not be focused on offering you integrated solutions without conducting any research, analysis or finding out more about who you are and what your goals are. They should be focused on connecting your business goals with a strategic marketing plan.

Like all unregulated services, the emphasis is on you to do your due diligence, learn all you can about the industry and potential agency and then take it from there. Remember it is your money, your brand, your company and any marketing agency worth their salt will work with you, make recommendations and only act once you’ve decided if what they are recommending is right for your business.

Have you hired a marketing agency that was not really offering true marketing services?  Were you disappointed with the results?  If so, why?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

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