How to Choose the Right Marketing Partner

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Amanda Sleger on August 26, 2022

Finding the right marketing agency for your business can feel a lot like speed dating. You cycle through a seemingly endless pool of marketing companies who promise they can meet your needs but never deliver. It eats up your time and resources when all you want is an agency you can trust.

You need someone who understands your business and has proven processes that will help you reach your goals. If you partner with the right agency from the beginning, you can start working toward your growth goals right now instead of wasting time vetting agencies every few months.

“Right” is the keyword there. Finding a partner that not only works well with your team but can actually help you meet your goals is difficult. In this blog, I talk with our Director of Sales and Marketing, Amanda Sleger, about what it takes to find the right digital marketing agency for your business. She offers these five tips to get in the right mindset as you search for your new marketing partner.

Know Your Goals

Your ideal marketing partner is someone who helps you reach your goals. But you have to be the person who sets those goals. Before you start researching marketing firms, you need to know what you expect to gain from the partnership. 

A few questions you can ask yourself to help define your goals are:

  1. What do I want my company to look like 5 years from now? (Or three years or one year from now.)
  2. How different is this from my current position?
  3. What steps do I need to take to close the gap?

You don’t have to figure out any specifics. (That’s why you’re looking for a marketing agency, after all.) However, having a solid idea of your marketing needs helps you evaluate if an agency is equipped to help you reach your goals. These might be:

  • improving search engine optimization (SEO) or the user experience on your website
  • boosting engagement in your email marketing efforts
  • optimizing content for greater reach

“It’s also important to remember that not everything has to be a quantitative goal,” Amanda says. “Many businesses have qualitative goals such as shifting their ideal client or attracting higher value clients. Although numbers aren’t always attached to these goals, they still require a strategic effort to accomplish.”

Amanda offers a few examples of how our agency helps clients achieve both quantitative and qualitative goals:

  • Using HubSpot to make teams more efficient and show ROI on marketing efforts
  • Building a strong brand that stands apart from competitors
  • Creating attractive websites with high conversion rates
  • Reverse engineering growth goals based on the business’s year-over-year performance

To make meaningful progress toward these goals, an agency not only has to be equipped with the necessary tools. They also need to understand your business and the value you offer.

Find Someone Who Understands

Finding someone who understands your business from day one is the best way to build trust before you start on a project. That way when they hit the ground running, you know they can get the job done.

 

No agency will automatically understand all the nuances of your business, but they should quickly understand the value you bring to your target audience. 

For example: A marketer might not know how you assemble high-powered lawn mowers in your factory, but they can explain that your product cuts yard work time in half and its lightweight design puts less strain on people’s backs.

“Finding someone who understands your business from day one is the best way to build trust before you start on a project. That way when they hit the ground running, you know they can get the job done,” Amanda says. 

She adds that this understanding usually delivers a shorter time to value too. The agency can hit the ground running, which means you can make improvements and adjustments early on.

But how do you know a sales rep really understands your business? Amanda recommends looking for two key behaviors as you talk to potential agencies:

  • Active listening. Particularly, restating the problems and needs you’ve just communicated. If the person can repeat what you’re looking for and what your goals are, this is a good sign that they truly understand what you need from them to be successful.
  • Providing value. A good partner won’t wait until you’ve signed a contract to provide value. Maybe the agency will give you a helpful guide or refer you to a free tool you can use to evaluate a problem. When an agency provides value throughout the sales process, that’s a good indication there are even better things to come once you’re an onboarded client.

Remember, although a marketer might understand your business, you’ll still function as the expert. You know your brand inside and out, and the best partnerships are ones you actively contribute to. 

“We know marketing really well, but you know your business really well,” Amanda notes. “It’s important that you can navigate challenging conversations and stand up for what’s best for your organization when necessary.”

Now, when we say “challenging conversations,” we don’t mean awkward Zoom calls where no one knows quite what to say. We mean conversations where your marketers challenge you to change your thinking for the better of your business.

Welcome a Challenge

Your agency should help you be realistic about your hopes and dreams.

 

The marketing agency you choose will be your partner, and good partners challenge each other to foster growth. That’s why finding an agency that isn’t afraid to push you out of your comfort zone or reel in unrealistic expectations is so important for meeting your objectives.

“Your agency should help you be realistic about your hopes and dreams,” Amanda says. “We might encourage clients to do more or less based on the results of previous marketing campaigns and how those align with their business goals. It will always be a case-by-case approach, but you should feel confident that your marketing agency is regularly evaluating the value of the next steps.”

Amanda added that an important (and healthy) way an agency should challenge you is by being frank about what is and isn’t possible. You don’t want someone who pretends they can wave a magic wand and make all your dreams come true. “Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to reach a goal, and your agency should be upfront about that.”

One thing that can play into possibilities is timelines. Oftentimes, the reason your goal is unrealistic is because you want it to happen fast. Although you might feel like you need results right away, remember that effective marketing takes some time. Teams can’t complete an effective web design in a week and content marketing requires time to generate traction. 

If your agency is challenging you on the timeline, be sure to take their suggestions seriously.

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Ask About Their Process

You want to find an agency that can start moving toward your goals now, not later. That requires a proven process. The agencies you consider should have an established process of how they work with clients and help them achieve success, including:

  • A starting point
  • A plan
  • A method of reporting results

Each of these items should be tailored to your business needs and marketing goals, and arranged so that every effort builds on the one before it. 

In our agency, we use the Revenue Operating System (ROS) approach. “The idea behind this is to base our marketing plan on a researched strategy,” Amanda explains. 

The ROS is divided into two parts: initial research and a 90-day cycle. That initial research is dedicated to creating a brand and marketing strategy, which informs all of the efforts implemented in each 90-day cycle. Those include:

  • Planning
  • Messaging
  • Digital presence
  • Technology

Our Brand Strategist, Frank Rocchio, explains the process in depth in this video. 

HubSpot Video

“We work in 90-day cycles to allow room for adjustments and improvements,” Amanda notes. “It helps us have the space to evaluate the response to our efforts, update strategy as the market evolves and continue promoting growth.”

The ROS cycle also helps you focus on what’s best for your brand right now (instead of six months from now), which is easier when you know you’ll have a chance to review results at the end of the cycle.

Think Long-Term

Although we like to break up marketing efforts into smaller chunks, we recommend thinking of your marketing team as a long-term partner. If you take the time to carefully consider your choice, you can save lots of time and money that goes into constantly cycling through different marketing firms. 

But how do you know if something will work long-term?

First and foremost, you need a growth-minded agency. If you’re trying to scale your business but your agency’s marketing services only support one type of client, then you’ll eventually outgrow them. Look for agencies that have the tools and skills to help your business as it is today and as you want it to be in the future. 

“We’re in the growth business,” Amanda reminds us. “That’s why we root all of our efforts in a foundational brand and marketing strategy. It gives us something solid to build on that acts as a guide as our clients grow and their needs change.”

The next thing to consider when looking for a long-term partner is if they’re a good fit for your business. Does their company culture match yours? Do they offer all the services you need? Does their process match how you like to approach your marketing?

These are all things you’ll have to evaluate for your business, but that the agency should be evaluating for itself too. Your potential partners should do their due diligence to understand your needs and goals and determine if they’re a good fit for you. 

You don’t want an agency that will say they can do anything just to get you to sign a contract. You want an agency that knows what they can deliver and will be honest if it’s not what you’re looking for. They should value your partnership being a good fit as much as you do.

Are You Looking for a Partner?

Hiring the wrong marketing agency can be expensive and time-consuming. No business owner wants to be stuck in the cycle of hiring and firing their partners. You want professional support you can rely on.

We’re dedicated to helping our clients achieve their growth goals through a proven process rooted in brand and marketing strategy. We’d love to help build your brand and grow your business. Schedule a call with Amanda today to see how we can help!

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Amanda Sleger
Amanda Sleger
Amanda dreams of a world where everyone can be found on Google and the leads flow easily. Dream big, right? She is working to make this a reality by helping companies envision what clear messaging and a strong digital presence can do for them. And then after a virtual handshake (a.k.a. a signed contract), introducing them to the Lone Fir Creative gurus that will start them on their journey to lead-abundance.

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