Pete Hitchman, director and freelance copywriter at The Enamel Works, gives Agency Match his tips for owner-managed businesses when appointing a new agency.
How can a business owner who has never worked in marketing pick a marketing agency?
I’ve worked with a number of owner-managed businesses while working for PR agencies over the last two decades or so.
Some were taking their first steps into external PR, for others it was just time for a change. For some, they’d had their fingers burnt and it was a leap of faith to invest again. In fact, one of the most pleasing pieces of feedback I’ve ever had was from an experienced and successful business owner who told me I had “restored her faith in PR agencies” after some bad experiences.
Now I am a business owner myself, and I can see why it takes balls. Entering a new supplier-client relationship, whether it’s a new PR agency, accountant or the company that supplies your meeting sandwiches, can be a daunting task. Often you’ll be taking a leap of faith, investing your hard earned profits into another business, trusting them to deliver a service that you may know very little about.
So here are four quick tips I’ve learnt over the years to help owner-managed businesses to get the most from their external marketing investment.
1. Seek personal recommendations
We do it for everything in life, so make sure you do it for agencies too. Ask around, listen to what your network says and request referees if you need to. Most good agencies will offer references themselves, but if they don’t, ask for a couple of clients you can speak to for a second opinion.
2. Spend time on your brief
In my experience, the biggest mistake a business can make before appointing an agency is to cut corners on the brief – and owner managed businesses, where understanding of marketing might be lower and time is inevitable at a premium, are the biggest culprits.
If you’re not sure what to include in a brief, google it. This is a vitally important step – if you fail to provide a good brief, your agency will be playing catch up from the start. At your expense!
3. Don’t chase your losses
As the old saying goes, ‘you get what you pay for’. If an agency seems cheap, there’s probably a reason, and I’ve lost count of the number of times where a client has gone with a cheaper quote, only to go back to the more expensive provider when it all goes wrong – particularly in the digital marketing sector.
What’s unforgivable, however, is when a client goes with the cheaper option again and again, trying to avoid paying the ‘premium’ price even when things keep going wrong. Swallow your pride and go with the provider you have confidence in.
4. Listen to the experts
Once you’ve appointed an agency, listen to them. Don’t be that business owner who micromanages and insists things are done your way, even when it’s not your specialism. You’ve employed an agency for a reason, so take their advice and put your trust in them.
[Editor’s note: if you need help finding the right marketing agency, then fill in this form and let Agency Match do the hard work for you]