Your business has been done well the last couple of years, and you’ve every reason to be proud. Your small but sharp sales force has stretched every limb and sinew to cover the local market – ask them to work harder, and they’ll drop dead! The brand’s a household name in your town, and your customers are your best ambassadors. Now what?
If you dare to dream big, you need to act that way too. While personalized selling and word of mouth works wonders, it does limit the number of potential customers you can reach out to. When you think it’s time to widen your customer base, and quickly, it’s only mass media that can do the trick. And for that to happen, you have to find the right advertising agency.
Ahhh… we hear the alarm bells in your head already. Advertising and us? That costs big bucks, and we don’t know the first thing about it! Chill. You may know nothing about the world of media and communications, but loads of advertising agencies do. That being said, choosing an advertising agency is not something you can do with your eyes closed.
Before you zero in on “the one”, make a checklist of the parameters you must include in your evaluation.
- Size does not matter. Big is not necessarily better and small advertising agencies have proved that time and again. In fact, choosing an advertising agency that’s aiming to be among the Fortune 500 could work against your business, especially if you want to start small. Heavyweight agencies are likely to put larger clients on priority, at the expense of smaller firms, and sooner or later it will tell on their work. Instead, sign on an agency that is interested in the creative challenge that your business offers, or one that is really keen to work with you for the long term.
- Let their work speak for itself. Every advertising agency will talk about how creativity is its life blood, but as with most things, one man’s food might be another’s poison. Look at some of their prior work to decide whether their particular brand of ideas is what your business needs. A lot of agencies will brag about the awards that they’ve won – forget them. Listen to the one that talks about how their work has helped build their clients’ businesses.
- Look for all round capability. Choosing an advertising agency is time consuming, so you don’t want to have to do that every time you opt for a different medium of advertising. Make sure the agency can provide 360◦ support – that includes not only advertising in print, audiovisual media and the internet, but also direct marketing and public relations. At the same time, enquire about their infrastructure – do they own a design studio or do they outsource; what contacts do they have with printing companies and above all, are they proficient in media buying activities? However, if your business is highly internet-oriented, and you’d like your advertising to follow suit, specialized agencies might make sense.
- Talk deliverables. Everyone loves advertising. It’s glamorous, exciting, creative… and expensive as hell! But talk about measurable results, and the rosy hues fade away faster than you can blink. Measuring the ROI on an advertising campaign is well nigh impossible, or at best, a difficult task. Sales might go up, but that could be due to any number of reasons. And what happens once the campaign is over? It’s not like sales will drop down to pre-campaign levels, so how do you measure the benefits over the long term? There are no clear answers and you’ll have to learn to live with this fact. However, while choosing an advertising agency, keep your discussions as specific as possible. Ask whether they can guarantee a certain impact – it need not be a rise in sales alone. Increased brand recall and customer enquiries are equally important fallouts of a campaign.
- Work the numbers. We’ve said it before, advertising doesn’t come cheap. Assess what the agencies charge and when. Some might work for a success fee; others stick to a traditional commission or flat remuneration. Whatever be the case, make sure it’s spelt out clearly in the contract.
- Look for chemistry. Advertising is first and last, a people driven business. Make sure you know who is going to work on your account, and put it in writing! Access to the top dog in the agency is usually restricted once your account is in the bag, but that should make no difference, as long as the guys on the ground know what they are doing.
- Look for reliability. Your advertising agency is going to be privy to a lot of your plans, so you need to ensure they can keep confidential information to themselves. Most advertising agencies will tell you that they do not handle competing accounts - but don't let it rest there - check if the agency has a smaller division or another group company that's serving your competitor! Finally, insist on a confidentiality clause that protects your interest in the contract.
Hi, I am Akhil Shahani, a serial entrepreneur who wants to help you succeed. Over the years I have run many successful businesses & made many mistakes on the way. I have created [http://www.aykya.com] to help you benefit from all I've learned on my journey. Please visit us & download our special 'Freebie of the Month' as a thank you for your visit.