Does it add up?

I’ve done a bit of basic marketing for my firm, but feel the time is right to step it up as the company grows. We spend money on local newspaper advertising, leaflets, have a simple website and send the odd mailer out to target clients, with mixed results. I’m keen to do things more professionally and have had a few approaches from agencies and media organisations that want to work with me. But this is not something I have done on a major scale before, and I am unsure how much I should be spending. How can we measure return on investment and what should we consider when bringing in outside help?


A. Phil Jones writes:

Mar keting agencies can be expensive and if you get it wrong you could spend thousands for little return. So first, set out in writing what you want to achieve. How many customers do you want to pull in? Do you want to promote your firm to a wide audience or just a handful of key prospects? Are you going to measure success in sales leads or hard orders?

Next, look at your competitors’ activity and list the customers you want to work with. This will form the basis of a brief for the agency and give an idea of where investment should be channelled.

Importantly, consider how much you’re willing to spend. Start with what you’ve spent before and decide how much more you’re prepared to invest. Next, speak to companies you either know or admire and ask for recommendations. A personal reference will help you to draw up a solid shortlist of firms to talk to.

Contact the agencies and see if they’re interested in an initial briefing meeting. Try to understand in which area the agency excels, as some will be strong on brand work, while others will be better in sales support and retail. Most marketing agencies will submit recommendations, either verbally or in writing.

Follow up references and check previous work before signing up a partner. As you’re new to working with agencies, why not try them out on an initial project first? Get them to confirm what return from investment they’d hope to achieve based on previous experience. You can often give them key performance indicators they must achieve in order for you to make payment. Good agencies will be confident about their ability and agree to hit certain targets.

Also consider any hidden talents in-house, such as people who maintain websites or write good promotional copy. This will save on fees and keep your agency focused on things you can’t do.

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