There comes a time in every business, whether you’re a small mom and pop business or a Fortune 500 company when you need help with marketing. You may look for a marketing agency or consultant because you don’t know where to go to help your business grow or your company may want a fresh look at what you’re doing and your staff is either too entrenched in what they’re currently doing, or they’re just too busy to fragment their attention. It’s a natural part of doing business.
Marketing is a vast and, sometimes confusing, space, filled with specialties, generalists, strategists, and agencies. Many times, companies don’t know what to look for when they’re looking for marketing help or even where to start. Do you need insight and a plan for customer acquisition (SEO, PPC, affiliate programs), do you need help with conversion optimization (branding, user experience, messaging enhancement), or do you need a strategy for keeping the customers you already have (retention and loyalty programs)?
Here are five questions you should answer, about your company, before you start your search for marketing help:
1. What are your top 3 business goals?
Knowing your top three business goals for the next year is important. Why? If you don’t know where you need your business to go, you’ll never get there. It’s also one of the top questions any marketing firm worth a damn should ask you.
Whether your company needs additional revenue, fulfill promises to the board (like reaching a specific number of active customers), or ensuring the success of an existing or new product, you need to be on top of your goals, your current numbers, and be willing to share them with an agency who’s tasked with helping you get there.
2. What makes your business different or unique?
Within the scope of your industry, knowing what makes your company different is a key advantage, but sometimes, a company doesn’t stress this aspect of their business because the cash is rolling in at an acceptable level. Any marketing firm or consultant will want to dig into this aspect of your business and you need to be prepared to answer this question. Does your company have exceptional customer service? Are you a lower or higher priced alternative to your competitors? When presented with the option to buy from you or your competitors, why do your customers choose you?
Sometimes this is a question that’s hard to answer – especially if you’re a commodity-based company. Identifying key points of differentiation may be the question that drives you to seek marketing expertise that moves you outside the walls of your company, but doing the soul-searching beforehand is an exercise well worth the time, even if it’s only to eliminate possible points of differentiation.
3. Who are your best customers?
Doing a full-fledged customer segmentation study isn’t necessary, but you should be prepared to speak in very general terms what your ideal customer looks like (and sometimes, what they don’t look like).
What makes this group of customers valuable? What do they have in common? What don’t they have in common with other groups of customers? Do you know how they found you? What do they buy from you? Do they complain to your customer service teams? If you can attach any data to this (for instance, if you ran a promotion or campaign that drove high-value customers to your business), this is a potential goldmine of information for a marketing firm or consultant.
4. What’s your budget?
Whether you have $10,000 or $10,000,000 to spend, you need to know your available budget or, at least, have a rough idea before you start compiling a list of marketing firms to contact.
Allowing a potential marketing partner to help you set the budget is the fastest way towards a) blowing your budget b) attracting charlatans in the guise of help. It’s true, not every marketing firm and consultant is 100% above-board and trustworthy. You can answer this question in general terms when starting your initial conversations, “Yes, we have an established budget, it’s in the neighborhood of XYZ dollars for this project”.
Knowing what you have to spend will also allow you to narrow your focus on selecting a potential marketing partner and whether you look for a full-service agency (which has a tendency to be more expensive) or a boutique consulting firm (which is more specialized). Not sure what your budget is? Here are some general guidelines (your mileage or experience may vary depending on your level of personal investment):
- New companies (in business from 1-5 years) – 10-20% of your gross/projected revenue. You have to get customers, great customers, to ring the register, and these customers need to know who you are before they’re willing to drop coin with you.
- Established companies (in business 5+ years) – 6-15% of your gross/projected revenue. You probably already have some brand equity and an established customer base that takes less revenue to engage or re-engage.
A word of caution, these are generalized guidelines and every business and competitive landscape is different. If your company operates in a highly competitive industry, your figures will change.
5. What kind of marketing help do you need?
This is the point in your internal discovery process where you can get specific about your needs and wants when looking for a marketing partner. The first question you need to ask yourself is, “What do I think marketing can do for my company?” Marketing isn’t magic though many would make you believe that’s the case. Marketing can do many things but, ultimately, you need to be willing to make changes in your business that support your marketing efforts.
Take your top 3 business goals (see what I did there? Yeah, it’s a full circle thing) and pick the SINGLE goal that’s critical to your business. You can only pick one. Yes, I’m serious.
Look at the numbers attached to this goal and ask yourself these questions. You can pick more than one response, but try and limit it to two – you can’t be all things to all people, and you don’t have an infinite marketing budget, you need to narrow your focus.
Will we reach our #1 company goal if:
- More people know about our brand and company?
- We get more traffic to our site/stores?
- We turn our existing traffic into sales?
- We get our current, good, customers to buy again or upgrade?
Here are the types of marketing specialties you’ll want to look for in a marketing partner. If you answered:
- A – Look for companies or consultants who specialize in Branding & Public Relations
- B – Search for companies who specialize in customer acquisition – SEO, PPC, Affiliate, Public Relations, etc.
- C – Focus on Customer Experience/Conversion Optimization companies or consultants
- D – Seek out companies who offer a specialty in Customer Loyalty and Retention
If you want more information on how to pick a marketing partner that’s right for your business either reach out and give me a shout .