Choosing An Advertising Agency
When choosing an advertising agency to promote one's business, the savvy owner or management team will take the time to make a sound decision based upon specific criteria. Though this can be a time-consuming process, the benefit of finding a good match for the company far outweighs any inconvenience caused by the wait. Rushing the process and picking the wrong firm only wastes money and can create other difficulties. Whether selecting a traditional agency or an internet marketing firm, the company owner or marketing department team needs to be clear on the business's vision, marketing goals, and advertising needs. One way of ensuring that the members of the management team share a singular vision and have a clear understanding of company goals is to create a portfolio with pertinent information about the business. The management can come to a consensus on these issues by putting specific information in writing, such as a short history of the company, brief biographies on the principals, the mission statement and vision, and additional summaries regarding the products and services, the customer base, and essential economic data. Portions of the portfolio can be part of the background information provided to potential agencies later in the selection process.
Before choosing an advertising agency, the management team should focus on their specific marketing needs. Is the company launching a new product or trying to increase market share for a current one? Perhaps an internet marketing firm needs to be hired to increase the business's presence on the worldwide web or work toward moving its website to the top of the major search engines' rankings. By thinking about and listing specific goals, the management team is establishing a set of criteria that can used to evaluate prospective agencies. A preliminary list of possible firms can be created by talking to colleagues in similar companies or networking with business associates. Other names can be added to the list by paying attention to websites and marketing campaigns that are appealing and effective. Be aware of this caveat, however: reputable agencies most likely will not represent clients who are competitors. Time may be better spent looking at the websites and advertising campaigns for related businesses in the industry rather than the direct competition.
With a preliminary list of from ten to twenty prospective agencies in hand, the team can conduct online research to whittle down the contenders. The next step is to evaluate each firm's website. The site's design provides valuable information about how the firm presents itself to others. Is the site formal and traditional or modern and contemporary? Are the web pages skillfully and intuitively designed or does a visitor need to click through several pages before finding relevant information? Is there a cohesiveness to the website or does it appear disjointed and unwieldy? Though this first look may not be enough to scratch an agency's name off the preliminary list, the management team's impressions should be noted for further discussions. Now it's time to look at the specific information included on the firm's website. Who are the creative geniuses running each firm? What educational and professional expertise do they have? What awards has the agency won? Does the site include credentials, including testimonies from satisfied clients? How long have they been in business? What areas does the internet marketing firm excel in and what are its strengths? Does the agency specialize in business-to-business marketing (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) advertising campaigns? Evaluating and analyzing each firm's online presence by focusing on these and similar questions will help the management team in choosing an advertising agency with similar vision and goals -- one that will be a good fit. Remember the wisdom proclaimed by the Old Testament writer of Proverbs: "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning" (Proverbs 16:20-21). These preliminary evaluations will help the management team shorten their list because they have, with wisdom and prudence, done enough research at this point to know which agencies do not fit their style, do not offer the services that will best meet the company's marketing goals, or perhaps lacks the needed creativity or experience to inspire confidence in the ability to create an effective campaign.
The preliminary process is more about deciding what agencies not to choose rather than selecting a winner. That comes next. With the names whittled down, the management team can contact the remaining firms and discuss the possibilities for building an agency-client relationship. Some firms may require either an RFP (Request for Propsoal) or RFI (Request for Information) from the inquiring company. The submitted information helps the agency know whether the company is a client with which they wish to build a relationship. The management team can request presentations as a type of audition process from the remaining names on the list. Through this getting-acquainted stage, the management team should be looking beyond the various firms' creativity and ideas to the building of relationships. The management team needs to discuss the people skills exhibited by each firm's executives. After investing time in preliminary research, submitting RFPs or RFIs, and listening to agency presentations, the management team should be sure they engage a firm with whom they can have a long-term relationship. Whether choosing an advertising agency or an internet marketing firm, the management team owes it to the company to spend the necessary time to make a wise and prudent decision. The company's future marketing strategy depends on it.
Advertising AgenciesAdvertising agencies have just one reason for existing, and that is to launch marketing promotions that are designed to sell a product or an idea in a way that makes that product or idea appealing to as many people as possible. Just about every business does some sort of advertising to promote itself to the public, and larger companies will hire agencies to handle that for them. These professionals have access to more outlets for marketing than an individual has, and of course the company's expertise in putting together an attractive advertising campaign adds to the effectiveness. Companies are credited with coming up with slogans and symbols for businesses that capture the imagination of the buying public. The current campaign for milk is one powerful example. Displaying pictures of celebrities with milk mustaches is an idea that has certainly received a lot of attention. An agency came up with this idea, and launched a promotion that includes TV, magazines, and billboards.
Sometimes, the thing being sold by companies is not a product, but an idea. Any nonprofit organization that wants the world to know what they are doing, where, and why, will launch an advertising campaign that will include every media outlet they can afford. Businesses will put ads in the newspapers in several communities. Radio ads will be placed at strategic times of day, and maybe a TV spot or two will be part of the promotion. If it is a large organization with an ample budget for marketing, it might take out ads in magazines purchased by its target audience. Before any of this is done, the advertising agencies do the research that determines who the customers are for the product, so it is possible to make promotions as effective as possible by placing them where those people will see them.
Churches seldom hire companies for marketing, but these organizations do conduct promotions at various times when they wish to invite the public to an event. Most congregations have at least one large fund-raising event annually, and this will be promoted by launching an advertising campaign that includes flyers in the windows of businesses, ads in the local paper, and spots on the local radio station. Television is usually too expensive to be included in marketing, but the above-mentioned markets, plus word-of-mouth advertising, is usually successful. "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)
Politicians use companies to get messages across. Politicians running for office will do whatever possible to keep names and ideas in front of the public until Election Day. Of course, they can't leave it all up to the campaign of the advertising agencies. Each must do his part by conducting town hall meetings and do interviews for newspaper and TV reporters, and make speeches to organizations. If the chosen marketing companies can come up with catchy slogans for their guys, this will go a long way toward making the candidates unforgettable. Pictures are very important in the political campaign of politicians, and no agency would try to launch this without them. In this case, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
Before the advent of marketing companies and firms, frontier sales were promoted through traveling salesmen with their "medicine shows." People sold useful household items along with elixirs that were touted as cures for everything from gout to hangnails. Quite a few people bought the products because of the salesman's pitch. These individuals knew what would appeal to those folks, and used that knowledge well in their advertising campaign.
For many up-to-date businesses, the Internet provides the perfect venue for a promotion, and all that is needed is a website. Advertising agencies are unnecessary for online advertising, although one might be consulted for art enhancement, or how to word the ads most effectively. Links that will take prospective customers from a subject search to a business will result in increased sales and revenue. Marketing companies will always have a place in the business world, as long as there are products or services to be sold. There are even opportunities in the local telephone books to place ads that will promote a business. It could be part of a company's annual marketing strategy to place an ad along with their regular listing in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory.
Companies that specialize in marketing perform a valuable service for the business community, particularly retail sales. The market is very competitive, and a business owner has to find some way to make his products stand out from the rest. Advertising agencies exist for that purpose. An advertising campaign can be very effective for presenting new products, or the new and improved versions of old products, to the public in the hope that they will want to try them out. People who see the ads then have the opportunity to decide if they want to replace something they already have, or to just try the new thing in the hope that it will enhance their lives in some way.