Using a marketing company
This guide will help you establish whether you need to use a
marketing company, how to find the right agency for your business,
then how to make your relationship work - including advice on how
to write a marketing brief.
Do you really need to use a marketing company
Marketing agencies are expensive. Before you commit to
using one, consider the following:
- Most business won't start using a marketing agency full-time
until their turnover is in the hundreds of thousands.
- You can do a lot of marketing yourself. Read our guides on market research and marketing you can do for
free and the other guides in this section to find out how.
- You can also use freelancers and interns (particularly
marketing graduates) before forking out for an agency. Using a
freelancer on an ad-hoc basis can keep ideas fresh.
- Analyse where your current customers are coming from. If it's
mainly through word of mouth, you could do something simple like
incentivising them to spread the word further. Whereas if they're
mainly finding you through adverts, using a marketing agency could
increase your exposure and be worth the investment.
- You might need an agency to supplement areas you don't know
enough about. Digital marketing is such fast-growth area at the
moment that there are plenty of niche agencies to help you, if you
think you could pull in enough customers online to make the
- If you're going to need ongoing marketing for your business,
consider bringing in a dedicated marketing person within your
business to handle things. This may be cheaper in the long-run than
using a marketing agency full-time, and an employee of your
business is likely to be more dedicated and knowledgeable about
your brand and products than an outsourced agency.
Find a marketing company
- Draw up a shortlist of possible agencies in your area who tick
the following boxes:
- Extensive experience with businesses your
- Experience working with businesses in your
- The right fit for your business. If their other
clients are much larger than you, you're likely to be bottom of
their priorities list. This is one reason not to be swayed by an
impressive client list.
- It's often better to go for a smaller, possibly younger PR
agency as they're likely to work harder for your money to retain
and impress you.
- A similar working style to you. Do they make
decisions quickly and are they happy taking calls on weekends, for
example - and does that match with your methods?
- A good track record. Always ask for results of
their previous campaigns and for client testimonials.
- The right price. Finally, of course, you have to
be able to afford the agency. Though you might not be able to
establish that until after you've met with them.
- Meet with up to five agencies you think could fit the
- And ask them to outline some plans for you. You'll have to tell
them who you're trying to target and what you want to get out of
any marketing activity (in as quantifiable way as possible - hard
numbers not just 'I wasn't more sales').
- Get them to put together proposals for what return on
investment (ROI) they think they could get on your behalf, with the
budget you're planning on allocating to the work. This will be a
key indicator of which is most worth your money.
- The following attributes are also important when choosing your
- An attitude you feel comfortable with. Don't go
for an agency that seems like the most revolutionary and wacky just
because you think you should - you need to be on the same level as
them. They're working out how to sell and develop your brand, so
they need to be able to think like you.
- If an agency feels more backward than you, they probably won't
be a good fit for your brand - you'll be able to tell even from
things such as the way they dress and the decoration of their
office whether you're on the same playing field.
- You must feel that you can trust them and entrust
them with your business' image.
- They are responsive to your ideas but not overly led by
them. You should be having an open dialogue about
possibilities, but at the end of the day, the marketing company
usually knows best - it's their job. On the other hand, if you feel
they're ignoring your ideas and taking things in a direction you're
uncomfortable with, you're not going to have a very healthy working
- They make time for you. The right agency will
always make you feel listened to and valued.
- They instantly build rapport with you. Good
relationships are key to an agency understanding and listening to
you and so communicating your brand successfully.
- The experience of the team and, in particular,
whoever will be handling your account if the agency already knows
Deciding on a marketing company
Establish how pay will work. Look at all of the following as
options and discuss which would best for your business:
- Per month.
- Per hour (be wary of an agency who is very pernickety about how
closely they monitor costs per hour - do they round up or down to
the nearest quarter of an hour, for example?).
- Per project (this can be good for the first time you use an
agency as it can work as a trial run).
- Flat rate (this can be a better option if you're not sure how
much work the project will actually involve and if it looks like
there's a risk it could take up a lot of time) .
Make sure you have a quick get-out clause written into any
contract. If they're not making your investment worthwhile after a
couple of months, you need to be able to leave them immediately and
find another agency who will make your money work harder.
How to write a marketing brief
Once you've chosen to use a marketing company, you need to
provide them with a brief, detailing your objectives, so they know
what they should be doing.
Set your marketing agency very defined and quantifiable
deliverables. Make sure you can measure their results and get them
to report back to you monthly, if not weekly. This way you can
A brief should cover all of the below, in the following
- Description of your business and what industry/industries it
- Your brand values and the image you want to portray
- Current perceptions of your brand
- Description of your market and your positioning within it
- Your competition
- Your products
- How and where you sell them
- Brief summary of your marketing strategy
- Other marketing and communication activity you're doing
- Detailed descriptions of your product/s services (price,
benefits, how much of each you have, USPs)
- Challenges you face and potential problems you foresee
- Target customers:
- Description of your target and current customers and how you
- Detailed profile of your target customer/s - their
demographics, interests, habits, etc
- Overview of how they behave and any trends
- The project
- Your objectives, quantitatively (e.g. want to see a 30%
increase in enquiries, a 10% uptake of your email newsletter)
- An idea of what methods should be used (print, digital,
- Key messages you want to give out about your business and
- Timescale: deadlines for each objective.
- Planning requirements and other work you have on that may
interfere with the project. Add notes on any seasonal trends or
other factors that could influence the marketing activity.
- Who will be signing the project off?
- Budget. Bear in mind this may alter depending on what the
agency says is feasible, but giving an upper limit is always
- This will all likely add up to anything from three to ten pages
of A4, depending on the scale of the project.
- Get updates from the marketing company you're using every week
or month (depending on the overall timescale for the work).
- Assess at the end of every project or each month:
- How well your agency has met the objectives you laid out.
- How much value for money it provided (looking at ROI).
- Whether you could get better value by doing something
- Don't be shy of speaking with other marketing agencies if your
current one isn't hitting the targets you wanted them to, but do
things discreetly. Talk over problems and concerns with your
current agency first and foremost. Better to give them a chance to
improve before doing anything rash. Good and trustworthy
relationships with a marketing agency can be worth more than saving
Smarta Business Builder
To help you on your business journey, we've created Smarta Business Builder, the complete online
tools package for growing your business. Website
Documents and Email - all in one place
- from just £20 per month with no contract! Try it out today.