3D Compass pointing at Trusted Partner as opposed to supplier

The marketplace is littered with a plethora of marketing companies.  Some are very niche by the sectors they serve. Some are very specialist in the services that they offer.  Many of them are more generalist marketing companies who are a “Jack of all trades”.

The pandemic has had a major impact on many sectors, industries and companies.  Some of them have been positively influenced and many have been negatively impacted.  Some businesses have seen it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and move into less volatile customer markets.  However, in order to do so effectively they often need to work with a marketing company to advise them on how best to maximise the new opportunity.

Considering there is so much choice in the marketplace, with often many of them giving you conflicting advice, how do you know which marketing companies to trust?  Well this article is designed to give you some useful pointers to guide you to the right decision on who to listen to and who to ignore.

How long have they been around?

Check out the marketing company to see how long they have been established.  Don’t get me wrong, the new kids on the block could be brilliant marketers, but there is always a degree of uncertainty with a new business.  It is unlikely someone who is not very good is going to last particularly long in business.  If they have been around for over 5 years then you know they must be doing something right.  Do they have a good level of experience or is it just someone who has recently read a book about marketing?

What is their specialism?

Marketing is a massive discipline and in order for a marketing company to be effective, they must either specialise in a particular area, or build an internal team of specialists.  If it is a small business – they need to have a specialism.  If it is a large agency type operation, they may well have a range of in-house departments.  This is important to understand, because it could largely influence the recommendations or the advice they are giving.  Is what they are saying coming from the best interests of the client, or what will serve them better?

Graphical depiction of a reviews mechanism

Check out online reviews?

Within the digital world it is very difficult for substandard marketing companies to survive too long due to the peer to peer sharing of information, such as customer reviews or testimonials.  Testimonials must be treated with a degree of caution – because the marketing company is always going to approach a happy customer for one.  Online review mechanisms such as Trustpilot, Feefo, Google Reviews, and Facebook show a more realistic overview of how clients actually feel, as they don’t need to be invited to leave a review.  Obviously don’t get too influenced by one bad review (that could just be an anomaly), but if there are two or three negative experiences, proceed with caution.

LinkedIn Icon

Check out their LinkedIn recommendations

These are different to reviews, as they are just people who want to say what a good job that the individual or company has done for them.  Why these are important is that these are quite visible on both people’s profiles so are not going to be left if they are not genuine.  If they haven’t had any recommendations on their LinkedIn profile, I would question why not.  Also, make sure the recommendations aren’t just previous employers or colleagues.

Have you ever heard of them?

They say that good news travels fast, so if you have had to search for this marketing company, but have never really heard of them before, you may want to ask yourself why?  If there is some recognition either surrounding the company brand, or the individual you are talking to, you have probably heard others talking about them.  Also, if you have never heard of their brand before, how good at marketing can they actually be?

Cartoon of characters shouting through a megaphone about their brand

Who are you speaking to?

In smaller marketing companies you are more than likely going to be talking to the business owner, and the person who is actually going to be working with you.  In larger marketing companies you may be speaking to an individual who is in charge of new business development.  Depending on which role they fill, their motivation could be quite different.  Someone you are going to be working with will want to make sure that the “fit” is right.  Someone who is renumerated based upon the amount of business they bring in, will just want to make the sale.

Do they offer a prescription before a diagnosis?

Doctor handing over a prescription to a patient

What I mean by this is have they taken any time to understand your business, your positioning, your industry, your target audience or the influencing factors, before deciding in how they are going to solve your problem?  If you walked into the doctors and they gave you some antibiotics to take before you had even told them what was wrong with you, would you trust their judgement?  Make sure their solution is not a “one size fits all” recommendation.

Ask them who they would recommend?

This is an interesting concept, but you will probably be talking to two or three (maybe more) marketing companies before making a decision.  Why not ask them, based on what they know about the business and the situation – what other marketing companies would they recommend you speaking to.  Those marketing companies who have the customer’s best interests at heart will recommend someone who they either think are a good fit, or will offer a contrasting approach (to compare).  Those who only care about the sale will struggle to bring themselves to recommend anyone else.

Ask them why?

It sounds obvious to ask them why, but most marketing companies will approach things in slightly different ways.  So ask them why they go about it the way they do – until you properly understand the reasons for their approach and their recommended solution.  If they can’t give you an immediate convincing reason that makes sense – then steer clear.

Finally, what sort of language do they use?

Firstly, are they talking in plain English, or are they trying to bamboozle you with loads of technical jargon?  Secondly, is the language focussed on results and outputs, or are they more focussed on the creative and the inputs.  If it is the former, you know that they are looking for the same thing as you – results for your business.  If is the latter, they are focussed purely on their role in working with you (and the accompanying fees).

Businessman in pop art style asking the question "do you speak English"

So, all in all, there is quite a lot to consider which marketing companies to trust.  However, if after bearing all of the above in mind you still don’t which marketing company to partner with, ask around.  Ask your closest friends and associates (people you trust) if they know of anyone that they would recommend.  I know, personally, I would only recommend a company that I was absolutely certain would do a great job.  After all, any work that they deliver will reflect back on me!

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.