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how to hire an integrated marketing agency for your small business


When the time comes to hire an integrated marketing agency, it can be tricky to find the best fit. Many of them seem to have similar capabilities, and most claim to accomplish great results and have a great reputation. This often makes it difficult to hire an agency with full confidence, let alone create a shortlist.

While we certainly pride ourselves on our integrated PR, digital and social media services, we thought we’d make the selection process easier by creating a quick guide on the selection process. Here are some important criteria to look at when hiring your next agency.

Industry Knowledge – Does the agency understand your industry? Are they aware of what your pain points might be and have the ability to fully grasp if you’re missing the mark? Your agency should be able to identify why your competitors are ahead or why you’re not as successful as you should be.

There are significant nuances between industries like cybersecurity and physical security, even if they don’t seem that far apart. Your agency should not only understand the strategic differences, but know what it takes to become a leader in the industry that you’re in.

Consultative Capabilities – When you’re in the RFP process, you might not know whether the firm you’re talking to is telling you what you want to hear or what you need to hear. While telling you what you want to hear is nice, and will certainly make you and your stakeholders look good, it doesn’t guarantee results. You want an agency that’s honest and can explain what’s working and what’s not.

Good consultation involves analyzing everything from marketing strategy to process. Agencies are usually good at identifying company blind spots such as inefficient marketing tactics, strategic deficiencies or other areas where you’re falling short. Sometimes, these conversations can be a bit uncomfortable as they may challenge the way you always do things. However, the agency you select should be comfortable having these conversations to demonstrate they understand your needs.

Proven results – When you’re investing in an integrated marketing firm, you want to be sure that they’ll be game-changers. A successful agency will proudly show you case studies or refer you to clients who they’ve established long relationships with. Making a financial commitment isn’t easy so it’s important to understand the people and quality of work you’re getting with an agency.

Capabilities – The very first question you should be asking when looking at agencies is “Can they do the job I’m looking to get accomplished?” Before you submit your RFP, take a look at their services pages, like the one we have here, to make sure the job you want done can be fulfilled. Some agencies tend to be more niche on a few particular services while others focus on being full-service.

This will impact whether or not you need to hire multiple agencies for your marketing objectives or can use one for all your needs. Your needs might also depend on whether you want a project or ongoing relationship. Smaller firms are more likely to accept one-off projects than bigger ones.

Nimble – Smaller agencies are typically more efficient than larger ones. There are fewer approvals and processes to deal with. This provides more opportunity for you to make changes to creative or copy without a whole lot of back and forth. You’re also dealing with a smaller team, and as a result – fewer people to manage.

While large agencies often have specialists with narrow expertise, at times they can be siloed within their own departments. Smaller agencies often don’t have client budgets that command specialists and instead have more well-rounded staff. For instance, they might have one digital marketing person who covers all aspects rather than someone who does SEO, another who does PPC, someone else who handles content, etc. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both are crucial to making a hiring decision. In addition, a smaller, more nimble agency can work as a marketing arm for you as they have fewer clients and are used to being partners at every step of the way. HubSpot does a great job of explaining in greater detail some of the advantages that come with smaller agencies.

Price – If you’re cost-conscious and don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on a marketing agency, then this is an important factor to determining whether or not to move forward. Depending on what type of agency you look at, price is sometimes affected by who’s on the team. For instance, some agencies offer a flat retainer fee regardless of the team working with you while other agencies offer a tiered approach. For instance, you might pay more for having senior leadership working with you.

If you’re looking for a small integrated marketing agency to help you reach your goals, LRG Marketing can help you get there. Email us today and find out how we can help your small business grow.