What does a marketing agency do?
This page could go under any number of titles. How to work with a marketing agency? When do you need marketing support? What is marketing? This is what I do, Mum.
Typical problems for a marketing agency
The best way to answer all of those questions is to describe the problems we tackle. If you’ve been in business more than a fortnight, these are going to sound very familiar.
- You want to check the viability of a new product concept.
- You need to find new markets for an established product.
- You want to sell more without employing an army of sales people.
- You feel there’s an audience for your product but you’re just not reaching it.
- You need to tackle a new competitor.
- You need “clever stuff” on your website. Or a stronger social media presence Or a new brochure. Or logo. Or strapline. Or…
- How to work with marketing agencies.
You want to check the viability of a new product concept.
A marketing agency will help you reach a go/no-go decision. Most of them will have a strategy template or lead generation process that encompasses the steps you see below. You may notice that 4 (b) is what most people expect from a marketing agency…
- What markets exist?
- What’s the industry or profession?
- How many companies are in ‘your part’ of it?
- How many competitors already supply what you intend to supply?
- How many ‘units’ do customers buy of your product/service per annum?
- How much do they pay per ‘unit’?
- What could you carve out of the market?
- Why will customers buy your product/service?
- What goals or problems do your target customers face?
- How do your products/services address them?
- How can you prove you can help customers?
- What makes your product/service different from the competition?
- Does your product/service concept need development to suit this market?
- How do customers buy your product/service?
- What’s your buyer’s usual job title?
- What do they care about?
- How are they measured?
- What purchasing processes do they follow?
- How do they select suppliers?
- Do they buy at a certain time of year or on seeing certain triggers?
- How do you reach your future customers?
- What do they pay attention to (trade associations, exhibitions, industry leaders, magazines, websites, YouTube channels, podcasts, LinkedIn groups, etc.)?
- How can you best put your message across (text, animation, video, web pages, social media, brochures, presentations, speaking engagements, handbooks, advertising, sponsorship, exhibition stands, podcast, seminar, webinar, etc.)?
- How will you train your sales team or distributors how to sell the product/service?
- What budget can you allocate to the project?
- What results do you expect and how will you measure them?
You need to find new markets for an established product.
Marketing’s role in this scenario is nearly identical to its role in new product development. The main differences are:
- How do you need to change your existing product/service to suit this market?
- Do companies in the new market have different goals and problems? If so, we develop new reasons for them to buy your product/service.
- Do companies in the new market buy using different criteria or processes? If you were moving into public sector sales, for example, you’d need to develop tendering expertise.
- Do companies in the new market pay attention to different people, channels and media? They almost certainly do so we’ll need to develop new way to reach them.
You want to sell more without employing an army of sales people.
A marketing agency will help you develop a channel marketing programme to recruit, train, monitor and support distributors and dealers.
- What industry does your ideal partner work in or sell to?
- What skills does your ideal partner have?
- What turnover does your ideal partner hit?
- How many staff does your ideal partner have and in what roles (sales, technical, marketing, etc.)?
- What commercially attractive services can you offer your distributors?
- What makes you a better supplier than your distributors’ other suppliers?
- How will you train your distributor’s sales staff?
- How will you incentivise your distributor’s sales staff?
- How sales and marketing support will you give distributors?
- What technical, commercial and administrative support will you give your distributors?
- How will you monitor the performance of your distributors?
- How will you handle under and over-performance?
You feel there’s an audience for your product but you’re just not reaching it.
There are several ways a marketing agency will help you understand and then solve the problem.
- Identify the problem. Are you really not reaching your audience? Maybe the problem’s that they’re ignoring your message? Or perhaps they’re hearing the message but they’re not responding to it? If your marcoms is based on digital advertising, an analysis of your campaigns’ performance could reveal the answer. Or a brand awareness survey could tell you how much confidence your brand commands in your target audiences.
- When a campaign falls short of expectations, the first response is usually to question the campaign. That’s the wrong way round. First, you need to question the proposition. Go back to 3 of the 4P’s: Product, Price and Place. Is the product right? Is it supported correctly? Is it missing vital features that are offered by competitors? Is it over-priced? Is it presented to the market at the right time in the right way? Only then do you need to start thinking about the 4th P, Promotion.
- When reviewing a failing campaign, go back to your plans. Revisit your decisions. Are you promoting in the right place? Are you using the most appropriate channel? Is your budget appropriate? Are the visuals or the tone right?
You need to tackle a new competitor.
From a marketing perspective, a new competitor should prompt a mini-version of your own new product process. A marketing agency will help you re-evaluate your product/service against the new competitive landscape. The steps would be an accelerated version of the process to check the viability of a new product/service.
You need “clever stuff” on your website. Or a stronger social media presence Or a new brochure. Or logo. Or strapline. Or…
Marketing agencies do tactical work too; short-term projects that are technical exercises more than marketing activity. Any work you need doing on your website or social media presence falls into to 4 (b) section of the list above. Get your targeting and messaging right before you make technical changes to your website, social platforms, etc.
- You want more traffic. Yep, we all want more visitors to our websites. There are plenty of agencies who offer to improve search performance and traffic. But maybe you ought to be more interested in the next item…
- You want to turn anonymous visitors into identified leads you can sell to. Traffic alone gets you nowhere. You want people to buy from your website or do something that tells you who they are.
- You want website visitors to be able to ‘chat’ to your staff or to an automated chatbot that will guide them to the answers or people they need.
- You want to make it easier for people to find what they need. Navigation is a problem for websites with lots of products and pages. But it’s a problem that can be solved.
- You want to automate the process of sending out handbooks and other materials from your website. Marketing automation takes the administration out of website responses and builds your relationship with future customers – and it works 24 hours a day, 365 days a years with zero human involvement.
- You want to sell direct from your website. Ecommerce is a almost a standard feature today.
- You want your website to pass information to your CRM system so you can tell who’s interested in buying.
- You want more people to see your output on LinkedIn, FaceBook or Twitter. As a goal, this is the direct equivalent of wanting more traffic to your website. And it suffers the same limitation: what you really need is…
- You need more people to react to your output on LinkedIn, FaceBook or Twitter. Marketing suffers from a near-total inability to distinguish between activity and advantage. There’s no point putting anything on social media (or your website) if it gathers no reaction.
- You need to find the right audience. The ‘traditional’ social media platforms (it seems strange to call such young platforms as LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter as ‘traditional’) may not be the ones your audience watch. Maybe it’s a podcast. Or a webinar series. Or a user group.
How to work with a marketing agency
Find a way of working that works for both you and the agency.
- Avoid paying by the hour because it’s administratively taxing and risky.
- At the other extreme, avoid long-term, non-specific retainer agreements. At FBA, we prefer project work. We like the variety; every new client is a new experience.
When you start a new project, create a detailed project brief. You can expect the agency to co-author it with you or they might have a template derived from similar work they’ve already done.
Separate marketing strategy and development from marketing administration. Agencies are too expensive to do administrative work. Employ a Marketing Executive to manage collateral, process leads and produce basic reports. Leave your agency to work on the programmes that generate the collateral, leads and reports.
There are, unfortunately, a few ways to ensure you’ll have a disappointing relationship with your agency too.
- “Here’s the product – sell it”. If the product/service is already designed, priced and the customer care package is ready, the promotion stage is all that’s left for the marketing agency. This will work fine – if the market assessment is accurate, if the product is right, if it’s priced appropriately, if…
- “We need sales quickly”. There are some marketing activities that occasionally generate immediate revenue. Adding ecommerce to a high-traffic website is one. But this is the exception. Most marketing takes time to deliver results.