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3 Rules for Hiring the Right Marketing Firm

by T Taylor

You need marketing help, so how do you find the right group? You might spend lots of time searching, reading, calling, interviewing and even hiring—only to wonder, or worse, worry, that you made a big mistake.

I’ve been the owner of a marketing firm for 28 years. I never went to school to be in marketing, let alone lead a business. I went to college to study art. But a college friend was a great copywriter and started his own agency. He hired me to be his artist, and I learned the ropes quickly.

Over time I saw how the business solved our clients’ problems with the right words and pictures. I got to know some of the best designers, writers, and photographers in the area. So, when I left to start my own firm, I asked if they wanted to be part of my “alliance” of stars.

They did. Most people want to be a part of a great team, whether it’s sports, business or other areas. People like to win, and being around the best makes everyone better. If you’ve experienced this kind of synergy, you know what I mean. And you can understand why the most effective creative firms exhibit it.

Here’s some advice to increase your odds of getting the right agency:

Rule one: Hire the firm with the best talent.

There’s simply no substitute for people that excel at combining imagination and skill to create effective marketing solutions. How do you know if a firm has great talent? Well, it’s not about awards (but they may have them). And it’s certainly not about their portfolio. It’s about how their work performs for their clients. Period.

And understand: Working with talent requires collaboration and a willingness to sometimes go beyond your comfort zone.

Rule two: Hire a firm with happy clients.

When it comes down to it, the right firm will have clients that love them, their work and the relationship they share. Visit their website and see what clients say about them. Look for specifics, not just platitudes. How has the firm helped clients achieve successful outcomes? What is the agency like to work with? Beware of firms that don’t feature what clients say about them.

And perhaps most important of all, does the agency take a genuine interest in helping clients meet their objectives? I like this old adage from Teddy Roosevelt: “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

Rule three: Hire a firm that gets results.

Notice that I believe having the best talent and happy clients only works if the firm also helps you hit your numbers. If you find a group like that, you probably have found your team.

It’s important that the agency you choose to work with meets all three criteria. For example, you could find a firm with great talent that’s doing exceptional work, but not like them. Maybe they seem arrogant, or maybe their approach or culture doesn’t mesh with yours. If so, you’d be wise not to hire them.

Also, keep in mind that the right marketing firm doesn’t need to have experience in your field or industry—that’s a myth. Firms who specialize in one field can easily get set in their ways, while those that work with many types of clients bring a variety of marketing insights to the table.

To summarize, hire a firm with great talent, that is loved by their clients and whose work delivers exceptional return on investment. Ask about their culture to see if it fits with yours. With any luck, you may be working with them for a long time.

When you do find the right group, one final piece of advice: stay with them, challenge them and reward them. The agency best positioned to help you connect with your target market is the one that has a deep understanding of your company, your mission, and your audience. A long-term relationship with a skilled marketing agency that’s committed to helping you succeed can be one of your organization’s most valuable assets.