Keys to Agency Partnership Success

The right marketing agency can be a tremendous asset to your organization. Here are seven factors to keep in mind when evaluating, selecting, and managing a firm:

1) Insist on “A” players.

The greatest value an agency can bring to clients is staffing its account teams with “A” players. These professionals are analytical, confident, creative, detail-oriented, highly motivated, and strategic — all traits that consistently translate to success. “A” players boast knowledge their counterparts at other agencies do not have. Insist on hiring agencies (like InSilico Media Group) that require their employees to have multiple certifications, from Google Adwords certifications to Hubspot Inbound Marketing certifications, and everything in between.

2) Find tech-savvy partners.

Agencies that are immersed in technology trends and innovations are able to more readily adapt their own business models, continually increase efficiency and productivity, evolve client campaigns, and make strategic connections to seemingly unrelated information.

3) Demand that digital is ingrained in their DNA.

Every agency, or at least the ones that will still be relevant in the coming years, is a digital agency. Having a digital division or group within an agency is not sufficient. Digital has to be ingrained into the agency’s culture and talent as a whole.

You cannot build digital marketing strategies and campaigns in silos. Social, search, mobile, web, email, and other digital strategies must be fully integrated, along with traditional activities, into every program and budget.

One of the easiest ways to ensure you’re partnering with a tech-savvy agency is by looking at their website and how much they embrace social media. Find a brand that practices what they preach.

4) Look for data lovers.

Leading marketing agencies turn information into intelligence, and intelligence into action. They build campaigns that consistently produce measurable outcomes, including inbound links, website traffic, leads, and sales. Hybrid agencies are staffed by measurement geeks who are obsessed with data.

Look for an agency that shows you the data before you sign the contract. InSilico Media Group leads with a data-first conversation to show our clients why they need to invest in marketing services or a website. If the demand is not there, we’re not afraid to tell you.

5) Invest in the do-ers.

The marketing services world is full of thinkers, talkers, and self-proclaimed gurus, but after a while, they all start to sound the same. The greatest value for your organization is in agencies and professionals that drive change by practicing what they preach.

Turn to agencies with demonstrated track records of success, starting with their own brands. Evaluate the strength of their website, the power of their staff’s personal brands, the value and frequency of content on their blog, and their reach and engagement in social networks.

6) Seek systems for success.

Prototype hybrid agencies are powered by systems that continually increase efficiency and productivity, encourage creativity, accelerate innovation, and push professionals to realize and embrace their potential. All of this produces higher performance levels and more satisfied clients.

Align your organization with agencies that take a systemic approach to professional development, project management, client services, monitoring, measurement, reporting, and communications.

7) Find partners, not providers.

Agency professionals must understand the importance of each client. Employees should be 100% focused on your happiness and success. Your agency team has to become indispensable through their hard work, insight, consultation, services, expertise, friendship and professionalism. They must do the little things that build relationships and take the time to show you they care about your successes, both on individual and organizational levels.

Find an agency that focuses on effective time management. For example, InSilico Media Group posts a timeline of “shared responsibility” on every website build.  This ensures the client knows what we are doing during the 12-week build process, and the client knows up front when content is expected from them, and what their “homework assignment” is throughout the contract.

Your Thoughts?

How to Afford to Advertise Your Small Business

1. How Much Should You Spend on Advertising?

This is one of the most common questions people ask me. “How much money should you spend on advertising?” Some consultants will throw you a number like 8-10% of revenues. Some people would say that you need to spend whatever your competitors spend. Others will tell you that you should only spend what you can afford. There is also another school of thought that says you should determine your goal, and set the budget according to the goal.  Insilico Media Group operates under that school of thought, and we call it SMART Marketing.

(Let’s not forget that if you ask the ad rep for each medium, they will tell you to spend 100% of your budget with them, because theirs is the only one that is effective. And then that opens a whole new can of worms for small business owners…)

With so many opinions, it is no wonder why people get confused. Yes, there are lots of ways to determine your advertising budget, and each method works better than others in different types of industries, and different sizes of companies. For service businesses with annual revenues of $200,000 to $5,000,000, the method that works the best is 1-5% of revenues. You should spend 1 to 5% of your revenues on advertising. This number is lower than what others might tell you, which is often times 8-10% of revenues.

But, are you comfortable spending that much?  And, if you spend that much, are you certain to see a return on the investment?  Will you reach your goals by spending money on that specific medium?  When you embrace a SMART Marketing technique, you will understand how much you need to invest to accomplish your goals.

Why do we tell you to only spend what you need to accomplish your goals on advertising? Because there are other ways to market your business, and advertising is only one way to do it. You might need to re-design your website to keep up with the times. You might need to create a referral contest to reward the customers that give you the most referrals. You might offer to treat every employee to dinner if customers rate you an average of 90% or above on your customer satisfaction survey. All these marketing activities require money, and they are in addition to your advertising budget.

When your company invests in SMART Marketing, growth will occur.  This leads to the question…When should you spend only 1%, and when should you spend 5%? Here’s the answer. If you want slow, steady growth, spend 1% of your revenues on advertising. If you want fast, steady growth, spend 5% of your revenues on advertising. None of these will make your company grow too fast. Your growth should be steady whether you spend 1% or 5% on advertising. So it comes down to how aggressive you want to be. If you want your company to experience fast, steady growth, put 5% of your revenues into advertising. If your goal is slow and steady growth, 1% of revenues would be enough.

Any marketing agency out there will have ideas on how you should advertise, and how much you need to spend.  There is something you need to watch out for, however. Just because you’ve spent 1-5% of your revenues into advertising does not necessarily mean that you’ve done a good job at advertising. You have to direct the money into effective advertising programs. There are some business owners that look at their advertising budget and say, “Hey! I’ve spent 5% of my revenues on advertising. That means I am doing a good job!” Well, not necessarily. Are they spending 5% of their revenues into effective advertising, or are they just wasting this money?

Insilico Media Group embraces SMART Marketing tactics to better plan advertising that works with our client’s goals.

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2. What If You Are Out of Money?

While we are talking about how much money to spend on advertising, some people say, “But I am out of money! I don’t have enough customers coming in, and I don’t have the money for advertising…What should I do?” Great question. The answer, as you might have guessed, lies in using marketing techniques (other than advertising) that are inexpensive to do, and something Insilico Media Group can help with.

The first thing you need to do is to stop throwing money into advertising. As mentioned before, advertising is the most expensive way to attract customers. When you are short on money, advertising is not the way to go. Next, you need to provide exceptional service to your existing customers. If you have annual revenues of $200,000 to $5,000,000, you already have customers coming to you. Perhaps not as many as you’d like, but you have a certain number of existing customers. You need to provide exceptional service to them.

Believe it or not, Insilico Media Group is happy to coach our clients on customer service tactics.  In fact, we appreciate when our clients compliment our marketing efforts with excellent customer service.  We can help bring customers into your business, but then it is up to you to keep them coming back.

Often times, the business owner feels down when the business is low on cash. The owner’s attitude affects the employees’ attitude, and everyone gets into a slow-paced, low-energy, apathetic mood. The morale is low, and no one feels excited. You need to turn that around. You need to explain to your employees why it’s important to provide an excellent customer experience, and why it’s important that everyone stays positive and enthusiastic. You need to explain to your employees that the more positive they are, the more customers will come, the more your business will grow, and the more likely they are to get raises. You need to explain to your employees that if they stay negative, you might go out of business and they won’t have a job any more. Make it a team effort to amaze your existing customers. Implement systems and train your employees so your service will amaze your customers every time. Make sure the workplace energy is high, and everyone smiles and works with enthusiasm. Tell them that this might be the one thing that saves the business from going under. If everybody manages to pull it off, have a big celebration!

The next thing you need to do is to ask for referrals. You can’t expect customers to give you referrals. You have to ask. For example, if you own a web design consulting company, it could be as simple as saying, “Do you know anyone else who might benefit from a website redesign?” It could be offering to take $50 off their bill if they give you the names and contact info of anyone they know that could benefit. It could be mailing a thank you card to your existing customers, and on the thank you card itself, offer a special for the customer to come back again, and a special for the customer’s friends and family. You could design a whole system where if they give you one referral, they are now a Silver VIP; if they give you two referrals, they become a Gold VIP; and if they give you three referrals, they become a Platinum VIP. Each level of VIP could receive different benefits. There are lots of ways to generate referrals, and your consultant can help you determine the best way for you.

And trust us – we DO offer “referral discounts” that work.  In fact, for marketing clients who refer other businesses, we deduct 25% off of their invoice for up to three months.  For website clients, we offer discounted edits and add-ons when they refer another client to us.  There’s a reason we went from 0 clients in June 2015 to 32 clients by April 2016.

The next thing you can do is to attend referral-generation groups. One example is the Chamber of Commerce. You get to know the people in the group, and you start to give each other referrals. There are lots of other referral-generation groups – some are more structured than others. There are groups that require every participant to pass two referrals to others every time they meet. There are groups that cost money to join, and groups that are free to join. Some groups might have membership requirements. For instance, there is a group that is composed of only the advisers for small business owners. If you want to be a member, your clients must be small business owners. So there would be one accountant that specializes in serving small business owners, one attorney that specializes in serving small business owners, one financial planner, one insurance agent, one web designer …so on and so forth. Every two weeks, these advisers meet and pass referrals to each other. The financial planner might say to the web designer, “My client needs help on website issues. She thinks her Flash site is not getting her ranked properly. I’ll send her over to you.”

When it comes to joining these groups, you have to choose the group carefully. Some are just a big social event where everyone chats with each other; some are very formal, structured, you pass the referrals and you leave. If you are thinking about joining a referral-generation group, definitely talk to your consultant. He or she would be able to help you choose one that fits you.We absolutely recommend Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce and Belpre Chamber of Commence.

3. Methods to Increase Revenues

Question: “How many methods are there to increase your revenues?”
Answer: “Three.”

Question: “How many methods do most business owners use?”
Answer: “One.”

Question: “What’s the best way to increase your revenues?”
Answer: “Start using all three methods.”

So what exactly are the three methods? Here they are…

1. Increase the number of customers. This is the method most people use. If you want to bring in more money, bring in more customers! However, there are two more ways that most people ignore…

2. Increase the average spending of customers. Have you ever focused on making people spend more each time they visit you? You can have the same number of customers, but if everyone spends more, you’ll bring in a lot more money.

3. Increase the frequency of purchase. Have you ever tracked how often a repeat customer visits you? Is it once every year? Once every two years? What if you can make them come every 6 months? Or every 3 months?

What can you do to increase the frequency of purchase? Now, I am going to show you something that is very powerful. There is a multiplication effect when you start using all three methods together.

Imagine that you are able to be 3 times more effective in Method One, 3 times more effective in Method Two, and 3 times more effective in Method Three. In other words, you bring in 3 times more customers, customers spend 3 times more when they come, and they come 3 times more often.

The combined effect is not just 3 + 3 + 3, making you 9 times more revenues. The combined effect is 3 X 3 X 3, which makes you 27 times more revenues!

That means if your current revenues are $200,000 a year, your revenues will jump to $5,400,000 a year.

How likely is it that you’ll be 3 times more effective in each method? It is possible if you work at it. It is not going to be easy, and you will run into roadblocks. But if you know the do’s and don’ts in each method, you’ll have a much better chance to succeed.

We will be dedicating the next few chapters to showing you how to become more effective in each method. For now, just remember that if you want to increase your revenues, you must do a better job on all 3 methods.