3 Tips for Choosing a Marketing Agency or Consultant
While doing some research for a client today, I came across the website of a fellow marketing consultant with their own agency. From the outset, it looked pretty baller with lots of fancy press logos and accolades, professional photography, big money-making value statements, and a freebie offer to new visitors. And then I looked a little closer and determined this is lipstick on a pig.
I often take time to see what other marketing consultants are saying out there on the internet to continue to refine my own value proposition and maybe learn something new in the process.
However, because this is my industry and area of expertise, I take my research further than others might before hiring one of these consultants and later find themselves having been taken in by “pretty” when there is not a whole lot of substance. (Anyone else been on a date like that before? ??♀️ It sucks.)
So while a pretty website or a list of high-end press publications may bring you in (as they should!), don’t let the surface level PR be a decision-making factor.
A lot of people are good at making a poor product look good
Here are the things you should really be looking at before hiring a marketing agency:
1. Check spelling and grammar closely.
If you are hiring someone to create your website or help with your marketing materials, you want to be sure it’s done correctly. After all, they are going to be “the expert” in presenting your message to the world, which includes copywriting. So check how well they write in their own copy.
If they write with poor grammar or typos in their own marketing materials, chances are they will have poor grammar in yours as well. I’m not talking about a single error here and there, either. Heaven knows I’ve had a typo in a blog post or an 1-1 email. I’m human and so is the person who’s websites you are reading.
However, if they consistently are having run-on sentences, typos, or even copy so dense it’s hard to read (i.e. the paragraphs are too long when viewed on mobile) then that is a BIG red flag.
There is a difference between writing in a conversational tone and writing with poor grammar.
2. Look for proper alignment in their marketing materials.
Do the paragraphs of their pdfs, emails, and website all align nicely or are they a little off? Do the photos and copy line up with each other or are they floating on two different lines? Building things utilizing grid lines is Graphic Design 101.
Here’s an example I designed to illustrate the point:
This looks nice at the outset right? Maybe you’re thinking: “Well it seems nice. It’s just not my style.” Or, “It’s fine but something feels a little off. I can’t put my finger on what though.”
Here are all the things that are wrong:
Now let me show you what it should look like.
This version looks more pulled together and polished right? Exactly. These changes may seem slight or like I’m being nitpicky, but the latter conveys a more crisp, organized and professional look – precisely the characteristics you should be looking for someone to deliver for YOUR designed materials.
When it comes to marketing, details matter.
Human errors can happen, which is why more than one set of eyes should review everything before it goes live.
3. Make sure you can fully understand what they are telling you.
Whether it’s in their marketing emails, blog posts, or a phone conversation, you as the prospective client should be able to understand the message they are trying to convey. If it’s not clear for you, then your message won’t be clear to your potential clients either and that is a #marketingfail.
Yes they are the marketing expert, just as you are the [fill in the blank] expert for your clients. Both of you still need to be able to convey your value to prospects in a way they can understand or neither of you will get hired.
If you are hiring me to design and develop your website, I’m going to explain that I’ll need access to your domain registrar and hosting account, your brand guidelines & all logo files (if my team didn’t already develop them), and full background information on your services and design preferences. Then when all the materials are received, I’ll set a designated day aside to write, design and develop your entire website. You’ll do a review, I’ll make the requested changes, and then we’ll push it live.
Now, let me present it to you a different way:
Phase 1: Strategy & Pre-Planning
A) I’ll send over a list of recommended hosting platforms that I think will work well with links for you to review the different packages and purchase. Then you’ll send me back the username & password for your account so I can go in and set up the site’s foundation. You also need to send me the login for your domain host (i.e. GoDaddy, NameHero etc) where you purchased the address where your site will live: www.YOURCOMPANYNAME.com
B) I’m going to share a Google Drive folder with you where you can upload any/all photos you have that you want on the website including your logo files. There will be a questionnaire in there for you to fill out so I can better understand the design styles you like and don’t like, the features you want included, and what makes your services/products so great. (This will be used as my guide for developing the marketing strategy for the site.)
C) Based on your branding and features requested, I’ll send over a few ideas for website themes (prepackaged design files) we can use as a starting point along with the links to purchase the one you like AND a video of how I would use each. You purchase which one you prefer and upload the files they provide you to our shared Google drive folder.
Phase 2: Design & Development
When I receive all the info, I’ll set aside a single VIP Design Day for you and build the entire site from beginning to end customizing the purchased theme to your branding and an effective marketing strategy.
Phase 3: Quality Assurance
I’ll send over a video tutorial of how to review the site and note the changes or edits you’d like to see made. Then my team and I will go in and make the changes or explain why any of them are not recommended.
Phase 4: Go Live!
We make the site live and searchable, put in any redirects from your old site’s URLs to the new ones so search engines know where a page has moved to, and do a second quality assurance check on the live site to make sure it’s all working as it should.
Now maybe you don’t need that level of detail at the very beginning, but you sure as sh*t better get it that clear before you HIRE someone. After all, that is a whole lot easier to follow right? Even if you don’t know HOW I am going to go about executing each step, at least now you can follow the process and clearly understand what you are getting.
Please, for your own sanity (and mine!) be sure you are asking questions and paying attention to the details BEFORE you hire a marketing professional. Keep my industry accountable.
Hiring the right one may have a larger investment required than you are planning to make at the moment, but I can guarantee you it will be more expensive to go the cheaper route and inevitably have to fix it later.
Just like you wouldn’t hire a mechanic whose car made noise as they drove up, leaked oil on your driveway and left a plume of exhaust behind as they left, don’t hire a marketing agency whose own marketing is poor.