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34 . Glasgow Business May/June 2013


I


t’s going to happen; whatever your business and whatever its size, it’s likely that at some point you’ll need a marketing or communications agency to help you


improve performance and/or increase your market share. Tere’s an array of professionals out there


willing to offer expert advice. A quick online search will identify companies who can help with everything from branding to social media strategy, content marketing and PR. If you choose wisely you’ll find someone


who takes the time to understand your business and the sector you operate in, the principles of your business strategy and the best ways for you to create and exploit new opportunities. Andy Crummey is a partner at Te


Observatory, a consultancy that specialises in marketing procurement and relationship management. He says that employing the services of a good agency can bring all sorts of advantages, so long as you make a commitment: “First, you must believe in the importance of marketing and understand its benefits. If you do, you have to give it a seat at the top table. “Tere are substantial benefits – engaging


the right agency can save you very valuable time, it can save you money and it can make you money.” One big advantage of commissioning an


outside agency is their ability to step back and look at your brand as a whole. Andy continued: “Te right agency will give you an objective third party assessment of your company; what they believe you represent, your proposition, your unique selling point, your competition and what’s happening in your marketplace.” In many cases you’ll be benefiting from the


insight of experienced professionals who have worked with an array of businesses. Marketing is the job they do day in, day out and they have their finger on the pulse. Tose who work in good agencies make it their business to find out everything that’s happening within the evolving media landscape. To identify the best way to help, any agency


will spend time with you discussing your business, your brand, past marketing strategies, your target market and your budget. If they know as much as possible about your business they can create work that’s not only in line with your needs but in line with your values too.


Choosing an agency


Searching for the right partner need not be a prolonged exercise, but you must be thorough in your approach. If you want to get the most out of the process you have to put in some work. Andy advised: “For a start, do a litle marketing audit or SWOT analysis on your business. Ask yourself what your proposition is, whether it’s compelling, and what sets you apart from your competitors. “What’s your budget and how did you


arrive at that? Who will be the agency’s main point of contact; you or someone else? If it’s a colleague, do they have sufficient knowledge, seniority, capacity, and do they have any


marketing skills? – that’s not essential, but it is useful.” It’s important to ask yourself what you want


the agency to do, and to be specific. Tink about whether you want them to create a website for you or carry out a comprehensive overhaul of your marketing. It’s essential to write a brief, bearing in mind that any communications campaign must link with your overall business plan. Andy added: “Carry out research before


you choose. It’s amazing what you can find out through Google, the agency’s own website and online business networks like LinkedIn. Also, phone up one or two of their clients. Most won’t mind giving their opinion. If you’re not sure about prospective agencies, get some guidance. Companies like ours will be very happy to help.” When you eventually meet face to face, ask


them what they think about your company and initial thoughts about the job you want them to do. You’ll see if they’re diligent, and if you find their representative engaging and a good listener.


Getting the chemistry right


Chemistry is very important, but bear in mind that it might not be you the agency is dealing with day-to-day. If you’ve nominated someone from your company as the contact, take them to the meeting. Don’t have a two level relationship with the agency where you speak with their MD but the responsibility for working on the business is delegated to others within each company who never meet. “If you’re looking to appoint several specialists,”


continued Andy, “ask yourself how you’ll manage them. It can be a good idea to appoint a main agency to act as ‘leader of the orchestra’. However, they must be capable and all the agencies within


One big advantage of commissioning an outside agency is their ability to step back and look at your brand as a whole


the group must be compatible.” Establishing an effective relationship is an


important skill. It’s good to become the agency’s favourite client, but that doesn’t mean you’re their biggest client or you pay them a disproportionate amount of money. Immerse the agency in what you do. Invest time in joint sessions and bring them into your world – and encourage them to do the same with you. Fees can be a sensitive subject, but Andy


believes it’s vital to reward the agency if they do a good job. “If you want great work you have to pay them fairly. Try to reward on deliverables rather than how many people are involved in the process. You could see if the agency is prepared to share some of the risk through a performance-related fee. In this case you must have an appropriate and agreed way of measuring success, but many agencies have experience of this, so ask them about it.” Review the agency’s performance and ask


them to do the same of you. Don’t make the review an onerous annual exercise – it becomes as atractive as filing a tax return. Instead, make it litle and oſten. “Above all,” Andy concluded, “don’t treat


them as ‘suppliers’ – they are shoulder to shoulder with you, so treat them as equals and partners.”


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