Find a company that practices what they preach

If you’re thinking about hiring a marketing agency to keep you ahead of your competition and industry trends, you absolutely should. But before you sign on the dotted line – do your homework… if a marketing company can’t keep on top of their own competitors and industry trends — how are they going to do that for you?

I’ve noticed so many marketing agencies, not only locally in the MOV, but all over this country (even those I used to work with on the West Coast) that have taken an “eh, oh well” approach to their own appearance.

Guys — if you’re seriously considering marketing agencies, whether you go with InSilico or you go with another company, sit down and get a few proposals and DO YOUR HOMEWORK on a marketing agency. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do they have a mobile-responsive website? Thanks to Google’s newest algorithm update this spring, aka “Mobilegeddon”, websites that are not mobile friendly are not favored anymore. Website design trends change every year… if you think their website is too “ice cream shop” or too “bland” – research the year’s current design. While not every body style on a car is appealing to some (even the biggest die-hard Corvette lovers all seem to have an era where a specific body style made them cringe and go “Oh jeez, Chevy – what are you thinking?”), not every website trend will appeal to you. Nonetheless, you want an agency that’s got a modern, fresh website, because at least it shows that they do pay attention to new trends, and they are capable of creating for them.

2. Are they a chronic industry buzzword offender? Meaning, do they claim things like “we offer innovative solutions through technology” and give no immediate, clear example of what that truly means? Research them (use CTRL + F) and see how much they use “paradigm” “forward” “solutions” “innovative” “outside the box” “strategic” “best” “value-added” “synergy” and “cloud” … and how many of those are actually in the same sentence as each other. You’re not hiring a company to fill your campaigns with buzzwords to confuse your customer … so why would you hire someone to market you when they can’t even tell you in a conversational tone what exactly they do?

3. Do they use bizarre phrases or bold statements that don’t make sense? For example, does their marketing say things like “We Are Business Solutions” … instead of “we offer business solutions” or “we create business solutions” … or do they make bod statements such as “We Power Your Business” — unless they are MonPower or AEP, I’m not very sure that THEY power your business…

4. Are their clients even in business anymore? Part of a marketing agency’s “quality control” mindset should be to actually ensure the clients listed on their website portfolio are actually still in business. While businesses come and businesses go, a marketing firm should want to portray that they are focused on making businesses stay.

5. Do their own marketing tactics make sense? It’s great to post a well-written article or goofy photo once in a while, it helps show the human side of the company. But if a company posts nothing but bizarre off-topic articles, thoughts, and photos, they’ll likely try this on-tangent approach for you.

6. How is their attention to detail? If you receive a brochure that claims they have “strong attention to detail” then they list the same industry twice in a bullet-list of “industries we serve” … well, let’s just say the product speaks for itself regarding their quality assurance.

7. Do they get great referrals? I’m not kidding. Call the people on their portfolio and ask. If you’re hiring a marketing agency to represent you, why would you not treat them like an employee and call a few of their clients for a referral? Find out – do they have honest billing practices – do they work within the scope of the contract, or are they constantly adding on services, then billing you for them? Do they treat you like you matter despite how much or little you spend? Are they open to suggestion? Have their clients been pleased with the creative services, or do they end up doing all of the work for the agency?

8. Do they have a logical business plan? Are they a spaghetti-on-the-wall agency that has far too many vertical markets? While multiple vertical markets are understandable, too many vertical markets can spread resources and talents too thin. And, if the vertical markets are not related to each other, only a small handful, or even one individual, from “big team of experts” they may brag to have may actually be qualified to help you.

9. Do they remain consistent with their own brand identity? If you’ve received 3 business cards from 3 employees and all of the business cards are different, how is their brand identity? Or – if they use a different colored logo, or multiple variations of their logo (different fonts, different taglines, different symbols, different color combinations), how will they remain consistent with yours? If you’ve established your brand over the last 2, 10, 20, 100 years and you’re now entrusting that to a hired agency, ensure that they can keep your branding consistent.

10. Do they have qualified employees? That’s a huge deal-breaker that many individuals do not research before hiring firms. Just as you would call references before hiring an employee, and you should call clients before hiring an agency, you should also look online – hey, LinkedIn is the best resource … check out the team at the agencies you’re comparing. How’s their CEO, VP, or manager’s credentials? Do they have enough work experience to show they know what they are doing? Have they earned their title? If they’ve been a chronic salesman their entire life, with a year of running a Facebook campaign for a business, and are now claiming to be a “director of marketing” … or if they have operated businesses before, and run every other business into the ground, and are now a few months into running this agency, what’s the probability that you’ll finish your contract with them before they run out of money and abandon you?

11. Do they post “thank you” to clients for their business and then, a few months after the contract ends, start endorsing their biggest competition? If an agency recently had a contract end with an ice cream shop, and they thanked them for their business, then a few months later posted photos supporting the only other ice cream shop in town – this may be a clue that they’re either desperate, clueless, or lack any tact. While clients may end a contract with an agency temporarily, you can guarantee that they will not come back to this agency after seeing them suddenly endorse the client’s biggest competitor.

These simple steps can really help you make a good, solid decision before hiring a marketing agency to represent the company and brand you’ve worked so hard to build.