Top 5 Steps in Choosing The Right Marketing Partnership
Marketing agencies have become a commodity and with so many people starting agencies in the last ten years, it can be difficult to find the one that fits your company. Most of these fresh marketing agencies have zero experience in the manufacturing and industrial industries. Although these agencies might be equipped to handle other businesses, a one size fits all method does not work for the manufacturing industry. The main issue is they tend to miss a lot of the key points that are most important to the OEMs because they don’t understand their target demographic. These marketing mistakes tend to arise because the agency has sold you on the false idea that marketing is marketing, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Below are 5 crucial steps you should implement when looking for an experienced marketing agency.
Step 1: Finding The Right Marketing Firm
When searching for the right marketing firm you should first consider how much experience the firm has, not only in working with manufacturing companies, but their actual manufacturing industry experience.
Finding an agency that specializes in manufacturing is vitally important when thinking about your marketing needs. Our clients, prospects, and target demographics appreciate that we come from the manufacturing industry because we know what the industry is like and we know what they go through, but most importantly what’s going to make them money.
Agencies that handle various businesses typically create campaigns and strategies that aren’t effective in the manufacturing and industrial industries. These strategies then lead to wasted time and money while they figure out your company’s needs. Often this hinders the client tremendously, the relationship dissolves, and then you have to go back to the drawing board.
You want to look for people with experience in what you do. This doesn’t necessarily mean if you’re a plastics company look for people who specifically work in plastics but look for an agency who only works in the manufacturing industry from a marketing standpoint. Preferably, the CEO, the key officials, and the employees will have experience in this niche.
Step 2: What Capabilities Does That Marketing Agency Have?
There are several questions you should ask when selecting an agency. Does this marketing agency just concentrate on one type of marketing? Do they do web design, content marketing, and social media management? Do they specialize in LinkedIn marketing or just Facebook and Twitter? Asking these initial questions helps you narrow down which agency will work for you.
Something important to keep in mind is that social media management will only be effective for your manufacturing company if they specialize in LinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter aren’t effective for reaching your target demographic. Where is the attention of your target demographic? Where are engineers, purchasers, and operators, at these OEMs? Where are they spending time? It’s not necessarily Facebook. They’re usually on Facebook, but not from a business position. Where are they? They’re on LinkedIn This is precisely why we offer specialization in LinkedIn because it produces the best ROI for manufacturers.
Think about it this way. The capabilities of the marketing agency you choose is extremely important because you don’t want to use 2-4 different suppliers, you want one. Manufacturing companies try to get business from OEMs to become a supplier by offering a value proposition that they can be a single source. A single source is a one-stop shop that can handle all your needs. Ideally, one agency can help you develop your brand, modify your brand, and keep your brand consistent across all platforms. That’s what you want, a uniform brand, and the best way to achieve that is with one agency that understands and supports your brand. Whether it’s web, SEO, online presence, search engine management, trade show displays, graphics, pitches decks, print collateral, you want one marketing agency to cover all aspects or be willing to expand into those areas.
For instance, in our SEO maintenance program we write relevant blog content two times a month, and this is based on the best SEO titles that will get the most traffic. This made it easy for us to expand into producing four blog posts a month for clients that don’t want to do SEO because they have that covered and are only looking for content marketing. We saw there was a need, and this was a good tactic to drive traffic and increase search rankings and engagement by providing value to subscribers and prospects. As your company evolves, we evolve with you, and that’s exactly what you should expect from your marketing partner.
Step 3: Choosing Your Marketing Partner
The next step in choosing a marketing partner is look at examples of their work, talk to existing and previous clients, and ask for references. If you’re looking for web design, evaluate how they have designed their sites. Are the designs an outdated center column stack with unused real estate on the left and right sides or are they full-width? Full-width web design has been the standard since around 2014, and yet new websites are still being developed in the old style. This is a complete waste of time and money.
Also, look at their graphics, the campaigns they run, and if they focus on LinkedIn or social with LinkedIn. Look at their own LinkedIn efforts, at how many connections they have, how much content they produce, and their engagement. Past examples of their work will help you decide if they match your style because not every agency is going to be in sync with your aesthetic. Creative is 100% subjective to the person viewing it. Keep in mind that marketing agencies don’t have total control over the creative. They may disagree with a design, but if the client wants something a certain way, the marketing agency can fight it, but at the end of the day it is not their company, it’s not their website, and they have to do what the client asks for. Understand they have about 90% control over creative and that creative adjusts every year.
Most importantly, utilize data, it doesn’t lie. Everything should be data-driven, especially decisions about how to adjust campaigns and tactics. Ask for data, stats, graphs, and charts that can actually show they are an expert. If you don’t get enough information from the marketing agency, then speak to existing clients. Ask them about the process, how efficient it is, how smooth it is, are they responsive, and how they feel about working with that specific agency.
Remember, the opinion of your target demographic matters, and you need to divert your creative control over to the agency. If the agency works in manufacturing, then they know what works and doesn’t work. Just because you enjoy reading industry magazines, doesn’t mean your target demographic does, and therefore you shouldn’t spend your money on advertising in magazines.
If the agency has enough depth they can evolve and adjust based on the specific capabilities of the manufacturing company so they can effectively market to the target demographic. If they don’t have experience in manufacturing, go back to step one and find another agency. Look at as much of their work as possible and determine if they service your specific niche.
Step 4: Size Does Matter
When assessing who to work with you basically have three options in terms of size: an agency, a single-man operation, or a freelancer. You’re not going to want to go with a freelancer because they aren’t going to be able to handle all of your needs. A single-man agency will more than likely get bogged down and won’t efficiently handle your needs. Instead, look for an agency with additional employees, that is growing.
Determine how big their team is, and look for an agency that is a balance of big enough to handle your growth and needs, but not too big. Be aware that with a 30-person or 60-person agency that doesn’t specialize in manufacturing you’re paying for overhead. We have worked with tons of clients that were working with larger agencies and they were sold on capabilities. Then the person who sold them on those capabilities basically just walked away and passed them on to a junior associate, fresh out of college, with zero experience. The people who have the experience and know the market should stay involved in the strategies and the creative. Essentially what you’re buying is their expertise and experience, but if the person with that knowledge walks away once a prospect becomes a client then they aren’t properly doing what they promised.
Again, ask questions. Do they have the experience to handle your growth? Can they evolve and expand with you? Can they take over more than just a singular project? Can they take over your entire marketing process? Talk to the CEO and see if they’re looking to grow. If they have the ambition to grow and are willing to add resources, then have comfort they’ll be able to handle your marketing.
Step 5: You Get What You Pay For
Once you’ve gone through the first four steps, look at their pricing structure. A mistake we often see is companies get involved with agencies because their budget is low, and they’re looking for the cheapest option. They’re spending $500, $750, $1,500 a month across numerous tactics, but at the end of the day, you get what you pay for, which is not much. Marketing is not cheap, so when you look at comparative quotes and proposals don’t pick the cheapest. Manufacturing companies say this to their target demographic. They don’t want OEMs or other businesses they’re selling their services to pick the cheapest person. People who make a decision based on price are not going to be the most devoted customers. When you’re choosing your marketing, partner don’t go after the cheapest agency and don’t go after the most expensive agency. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
Your marketing strategy needs to be affordable and effective. Most manufacturing companies don’t even have budgets for marketing. We don’t ask that question when we prospect because most companies don’t know what marketing should cost or think it’s very important. If a marketing agency also works with realtors or dentists and they’re saying they can get a lot done for $750 a month, they aren’t going to be the right fit. An agency that works in only manufacturing might cost $2,500 a month but take into consideration the value and experience they bring to the table.
Commonly a lot of agencies are adding a high volume of clients at a lessor cost. They’ll have 125 clients all at $750 a month, but those 125 clients are not getting the attention they need to be successful. Manufacturing companies need to understand that if it’s super cheap, it’s too good to be true. They need to look at the value that is provided verses the cost. Expect to pay for that value and expect to pay a couple thousand dollars a month. You can go up to $5,000, $7,000, $10,000 depending on how much you’re asking an agency to do. Anything under $1,500, which is on the very low end, is not going to produce significant ROI.
You have to take into consideration that you’re selling to OEMs or other businesses and it’s expensive. You’re looking at contracts that are 6 or 7-figures, so it’s not going to be $20 to land a prospect. You’re going to have to spend money to land those clients. It could cost $500-$1000 to land a solid prospect, but if that prospect sends you an RFQ and you land a project that’s $1.2 million or $600,000 or $350,000 then that’s well worth it. Over the first year alone you’ll be able to pay that for ROI.
A small amount of money is not going to produce quality leads and people in your pipeline. It might produce activity, but it’s not going to be the right activity and it’s going to be a waste of time and money.
Choose Wisely and You Can’t Go Wrong
Often companies don’t value or understand their marketing, but they’re missing out on opportunities for growth. The right agency will not only aid you in your growth, but will understand every aspect of your needs, and will grow with you. Remember to look for an agency that not only recognizes the manufacturing space, but has experience working in that space. Choosing the right marketing partner can seem overwhelming, but if you use these steps to aid in your decision you can’t go wrong.
This article was originally posted on the March issue of Compoundings Magazine which is a publication by the Independent Lubricants Manufacturers Association, here is their March Issue.