As I write this, my house is in complete disarray. We have a contractor tearing up my girls’ old bedrooms and converting them into a guestroom and an art studio for my wife. It isn’t pretty…but soon will be. As I walk past the tarp and power tools and stepladders, I’m so appreciative that there are people whom I can call on who know how to do this with an assured and desirable outcome. I use experts to prepare my taxes, to check under my engine, to tell me my cholesterol is too high. I leave the do-it-yourself projects to things that have very low consequences if I screw it up.
Marketing is not a low-consequence endeavor. If it doesn’t succeed, company fortunes and employee livelihoods are at risk. And yet, for too many companies, marketing continues to be a do-it-yourself project.
It doesn’t take an expert to see the results of this by simply flipping through the pages of any newspaper or magazine. Home-made ads are usually the ones you ignore, are plainly designed (or far worse) without style or a fresh point of view. The same goes for websites, Facebook pages, direct mail, radio commercials and company brochures.
D-I-Y is pervasive – but hardly ever persuasive!
We get inquiries all the time from businesses who have been creating their home-made ads and realize that the outcomes haven’t been what they’d wish for. But just as quickly, they pull back, fearful of relinquishing control and suffering sticker shock when they compare the cost of their D-I-Y efforts to professional services. What they’re missing is that by spending money for professional objectivity, expertise and talent, they dramatically increase the chances of their marketing actually having serious bottom-line impact.
The results of making the leap from D-I-Y to seeking out professional help can be dramatic. I’ve seen countless times sizable changes in traffic, sales and inquiries that resulted from putting the marketing in the hands of experts who excel in that craft. That’s how after 20 years, some businesses become overnight successes!
And by “experts,” I’m not talking about letting the shop that designed your banners or flyers design an ad. They’re experts in quick print projects. They’re not a marketing firm or an advertising agency whose portfolio of work comes with recognizable brands; as a result they don’t know how to help you build a long-term competitive position in the marketplace. Nor am I talking about brother Bernie’s kid who took two semesters of computer graphics and makes rock band t-shirt designs.
Every town has ad agencies and marketing firms who can provide you the ideal strategic guidance and talent required to make a difference. As you know, they come in just about every flavor, from one-man shops to multi-floor mega-agencies. Selecting the right company is a matter of chemistry, portfolio, history of success and their desire to win your business. It’s no different than choosing an accountant, contractor or garage mechanic. Price is a factor, but should never be the deciding factor – any more than seeking out the cheapest physician when you’re worried about internal bleeding. (Remember, it’s your company’s life on the line.)
Here are some tips in selecting a marketing provider (or better yet, a marketing partner!):
- Look at their work. Does it surprise you? Would it stop you if you were to stumble across it? Will you remember it an hour later?
- Ask how they would approach your business, learn about your audiences and develop strategies to attract new business. This is especially important if they don’t have your specific category in their client roster.
- Ask how they’ve handled similar marketing challenges in the past.
- Look for a range of client types and industries. Good ideas cross-pollinate. On the other hand, one-industry agencies limit how far you can go because they’re always reaching into the same old bag of tricks.
- Ask for references, and then follow-up. Ask their references if the company is easy to work with, do they listen, how do they deal with failures (’cause they happen even to the best of brands), and how responsive they are to requests and changes.
Just remember, success isn’t about your being able to do everything or know everything. It’s about being able to find the very best resources to complement what you do and know.
That’s why I know when to run to Home Depot myself and when to call on the guys who are ripping out the girls’ closets right about now.
Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.