by Lisa Sisley on September 7, 2016

Marketing questions to ask

We all ask ourselves a lot of questions every day. Is this milk still OK? Would something bad actually happen if I open that email addressed to “Dear One”? Why do so many people seem to own cars without a turn signal?

And maybe you’ve even asked yourself some questions about whether you should work with a marketing company like NBCG.

Perhaps you’re the business owner. Or possibly you’re the person in charge of marketing. Either way, there’s a lot on the line for you. How do you decide whether you need to outsource some expertise, and who you should choose, if you do?

Do you need to step up your marketing game?

Here are a few triggers that might prompt you to shake up your marketing strategy.

  • The bottom line is sagging. Sales, revenue or other key metrics are down. So internally, you’re going to be looking at the causes for the slump: the overall economy, product quality, customer service, supply chain issues, your competitor built a cool, new mousetrap. Or maybe….
  • Nobody knows who you are. If you determine that your problem isn’t any of the above, but that your ideal clients and customers 1) don’t know you can solve a problem they’re having, 2) don’t know you exist, or 3) can’t find you online, then you’ve got a problem you can solve with stronger outreach.
  • You did a brochure once, and your nephew built you a website. You’ve probably always had some marketing materials—maybe some printed pieces, a website that somebody else has to change for you, stuff like that. But time flies, and suddenly, it’s not 1997 anymore.
  • You’re embarrassed to go to trade shows. Your head of sales finds himself trying to connect with new customers, but he’s sandwiched in between competitors A and B, both of whose conference displays and materials are Rolls Royce-caliber next to your Yugo. First impressions matter.

These realizations can be uncomfortable. They sting. After all, no one likes to be the guy who’s falling behind. Once you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level, you’ll need to determine if you can scale efforts internally, or if you need some outside help.

How do you decide whether you need some outside marketing capacity?

Once you realize you need to make some changes, you’ve got to decide between keeping it in-house, or finding a good partner to help. You might want to look outside if any of these points sound familiar.

  • “Marketing” got added to somebody’s real job description. It’s very common that the expert in something else finds herself in charge of marketing. This is how accountants become responsible for creating logos. They’re diverted from the responsibilities they were hired to carry out in the first place, to do something they don’t know much about.
  • Your in-house marketing team lacks a particular area of expertise. Few people are equally good at everything. Good writers are rarely good graphic designers, or web developers. Small in-house teams are often awesome, and they bring so much specific insider know-how. But sometimes they need a little back-up.
  • You’re ready to make a move. You want that next level of clientele. You’ve set an ambitious new sales goal. You want to expand into new geographic territory. The time is right to reposition your business for new opportunities, and you want a fresh perspective on how to get there.
  • You want a complete plan and not just a one-off. You could try putting together an updated brochure on your own, and run it off on your printer. But then it probably won’t sync up with your old website, and the info on your site doesn’t even match what you actually do anymore. And is a brochure even a good use of your money? How can you be sure?

Perhaps you see yourself in one—or several—of these scenarios. We can practically hear you yelling, “YES!” in recognition. The clouds have parted and you can see the light, like when Gandalf comes to the rescue at Helm’s Deep. It’s time to call for reinforcements! But, before you pick up the phone, you have one last round of questions to ask.

So, how do you choose the right marketing company?

There are all kinds of marketing companies—your spam folder is full of emails from them—so how can you feel confident about the one you choose?

  • Look for the total package. There are plenty of “marketing consultants” or “social media experts” and others who have one area of specialty and want to convince you that it’s the only hammer you need for your nail of a problem. The trouble is that real, long-lasting solutions are rarely that simple, and it’s very efficient to have a complete team who uses a lot of different tactics.
  • Look for in-house control and original work. Many marketers or web developers outsource a lot of the work or work from a template, which can lead to fragmentation and lack of originality. Plus outsized mark-ups that you pay for.
  • Look for high quality. If a marketing company’s own website functions poorly, isn’t well structured, or is badly written, you should assume the work they do for you will fall to the same level. And when you see work out in the world that you like, find out who did it.
  • Look for direct access. In some agencies, you work with an account rep, not directly with the content specialists, graphic designers, digital marketers or web developers who are helping you succeed. It’s much more efficient and collaborative to be able to call or email your team members directly. A project manager is excellent to have. A gatekeeper is not.
  • Look for a solid business. How long have they been operating? Will they be around in a year? Are they active in the community? Do they know anything about the environment your business is working in?
  • Look for a custom proposal. If you ask for a proposal, read it with an eye toward determining whether the marketing company paid close attention to your particular issues and reality. Some companies just do a find-and-replace from the last proposal and call it good. You deserve more skin in the game than that.

If you’re at a point where talking to an outside firm about marketing makes sense, we’d certainly appreciate the chance to sit down and discuss whether we’d be a good fit to work with you and your team. And you can ask us anything!

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