Choosing a marketing agency is a process that should be done with care and strategy. It’s a “choose your own adventure” metaphor – like buying a car, buying a home, choosing a wedding dress, finding a wife, picking a paint color, deciding on a name for your baby. Pick your favorite. Choosing a marketing agency is like that.

This can be divided into two topics: what you need and what they offer. Ideally, you want those things to overlap as much as possible. Then comes the final frontier.

Part 1: You, Glorious You!

Let’s start with you. You look great today, by the way. I love that shirt.

Here are some starting questions to ask yourself and your team before you start vetting agencies. Yes, before. If you wait until after, both parties end up frustrated.

What are your goals?
(Your goals of running a marathon or learning how to cook a great steak are awesome and we’re totally rooting for you, but let’s stick to business goals for now.)

Are you hoping to increase sales? Leads? Create a unified brand? Increase brand awareness and reputation? Do you have PR needs? Do you just know your website needs a serious overhaul, or your sales department needs some print pieces to help make the sell?

What will success look like?
Quantify your goals if possible (it’s easier to hit a target when you know what it is). If it’s not a quantifiable goal, figure out how success will be measured or what outcome will satisfy you.

Good marketing is marketing that works. Make sure you know what that means.

What is most important to you?
Are you looking for creativity? Fast execution? Hands-off execution? Do you want the least expensive solution? The most effective solution? Some of these things can overlap. Rarely will all of them come together. Figure out which of these you can’t compromise on.

There are a lot of smaller questions you can (and should) ask yourself before embarking on a marketing adventure, but these will help shape those early conversations so that you find an agency who understands your goals and can help you get there in a way that makes sense for you.

Part 2: Us, Magnificent Us!

OK, now on to us.

Here are some questions to which you should have answers before choosing a marketing agency.

What is the vision of the agency?
Here at TQS, we like to think of ourselves as the most creative agency in Buffalo. And while we clearly believe that creativity is the strongest marketing platform, there are others. Not every client is looking for creative. This is why you need to establish your own goals, values and definition of success before talking to agencies.

What are the strengths of the agency?
Not everyone does everything. If you need a website, find an agency who has proven they do great websites that stand out from the competition. If you’re facing a corporate crisis, find an agency with proven public relations success.

What is their client retention?
Do clients keep coming back? Why? Why not? Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s your money.

Does their work stand out?
Look at their work. Is it memorable?

What vision do they have for your company/brand?
If you think an agency shares your values, can accomplish your goals, and produce work that you feel would achieve the success you’re looking for, find out what they think you need. It might differ slightly from your own goals. That’s not always a bad thing. Outside opinions are incredibly valuable in this industry.

Part 3: Money, Marvelous Money

I think it’s time that you and I arranged a heart-to-heart.

Here’s the hard truth. Let’s rip off the Band-Aid:

The least expensive agency will likely produce the lowest-quality work, with the least effective results.

There are exceptions to this, of course. Do you have the skills and expertise to know the difference?

We often hear people say that they’ve changed their mind about professional work because their friend has a daughter who’s in graphic design school. Or who has a camera and Photoshop and a Mac. They found someone who will build their website for $200.

Maybe this works out for them. But you probably wouldn’t just hire the cheapest babysitter, right? Or buy the cheapest car? Again, choose your own metaphor here. In marketing, you get what you pay for. So unless you answered the earlier questions with “getting the cheapest solution is my one and only goal,” going with an option that’s suspiciously inexpensive probably won’t hit your other targets. There is value in quality.

So there you really have it. Figure out what you need, and find an agency that offers it. Maybe we should have just led with that?

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