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The Gap is closing between Direct Response and Advertising Agencies

Advertising and Promotion

Larger clients (with more than $100 million in revenue) see more of a split than smaller and mid-sized clients. Because of budget constraints, smaller clients are less accommodating to specialisation.

The big companies, on the other hand, are more likely to have specialised teams handling those functions. That's because they are more likely "to recognise the separate craft in both disciplines, and the difficulties in successfully doing both," said a statement, put out by the Direct Marketing Agency Council of the Direct Marketing Association (USA), which conducted the study.

The Question is asked, more and more!
Where can I find an Agency that can do everything, you know, a strategy or plan that includes all the different media opportunities, formal and informal, that will meet my company's marketing and sales objectives? They must be good, have good reliable people, and be affordable and measurable.

How to select the right Integrated Marketing Communications company!
This is a crucially important decision for any company!

You have had enough. You are not getting good enough work from your current agency. You are thinking of going to another agency for help. So what do you do?

There are ways to choose an appropriate marketing agency that can deliver the strategic thinking, creative talent and fresh ideas that you need - in a manner and at a price that makes it cost-effective, no matter how much you spend on their services!

A quick checklist to know whether you need another marketing agency or if you need a change?

  • You have a tight deadline and your agency can't help and their creative staff are overworked;

  • You have an agency, but the bills have been unpredictable, they have gone over budget, and/or you are not getting the marketing response and conversions you know you should get;

  • You suspect that you are not getting full value out of your marketing efforts and you need objective thinking;

  • You feel they are not contributing to your business through innovative marketing ideas.

  • You don't see enough of top management. They have lost their professionalism and ability to understand the changes in your business. They have lost their problem solving ability, interest and enthusiasm. Generally their standards have dropped.

  • You are not convinced that what has been produced is doing justice to your product, your services and your company's bottom line.

If you have checked off any one of the above, you should follow this guide for hiring a marketing agency to help you achieve your marketing goals.

Tips from an Expert
Paul Siman, MD at Stromberg-Connors Communications, New York - an integrated marketing communications firm, gives advice on how to choose a marketing agency.

Word of Mouth: The best way to get names of marketing agencies is "word of mouth." There is no substitute for a good referral. Ask your colleagues in the business. Call associations you belong to or check industry magazines and newsletters and ask for a referral list. Explain what you are looking for

Give a brief idea of the kind of project. That way, your informant can give you a more relevant referral.

6 Steps to choosing the marketing agency that is right for you:
There are several ways to evaluate an agency. Here are the basics:

  1. Define your objectives: Ask yourself what you expect from an agency: proactive agency staff; purely strategic thinking; outstanding copy and creative; flawless execution and implementation; or all of it. What kind of marketing program are you looking for and what do you want your marketing program to achieve? Talk to your marketing staff and your sales force and get their views on your current marketing and on your market. Do your homework.

  2. Listen to them. Let the agency give you their dog and pony show. Take notes during their presentation. See if you learned anything. Was it just "me, me, me" or did you hear a philosophy, an approach? Did they simply tell you what they did, or did they tell you why they did it and why their projects succeeded or failed?

  3. Look at them. Do you like the way they present themselves? How are they dressed? Are they so businesslike that you cannot distinguish them from yourself? Are they so avant - that you are on edge? Marketing people, while businesslike, should show some signs of creativity!
    But remember you are selling your products and services, so you do want a marketing agency with a business sensibility. You want a group you can work with. If your personal styles do not compliment each other and mesh, you will probably have difficulty developing a healthy business relationship.

  4.  Look at their work. How do they present it? Are their samples fresh and clean? Does each client's piece have a distinct identity? Or does everything look the same, as if it all has the agency stamp on it? Do the graphics catch your eye? Do any of the graphics surprise you and prompt an "Ah! What a great idea!" And, do you like the work you are looking at.

  5. Read their work. Remember that you are not hiring a design firm or a decorator. You are hiring a marketing agency. You are looking for the ability to create and communicate ideas that will sell your products and services - whether it's to your sales force, customers or prospects.

  6. Ask questions. Interview them. Ask them lots of questions. Here are some suggestions.

10 Questions to ask

  1. Ask for a complete active client list and how long they have worked with their clients. Check on their past clients - why their clients have left them or visa versa;

  2. Ask how old the agency is. Young or old doesn't necessarily mean good or bad. If the agency is young, however, find out the level of experience of the individuals you will be working with. How long they have been in business and what their experience is. Pay close attention to the personality of the presenter as he or she sets the tone for the firm.

  3. Ask how big the firm is. Is it too big to give you senior level personal attention? Too small to have the resources, both technological and creative, you need? A good question is what are their billings and what proportion of those billings would your company represent.

  4. Ask who would work on your account. Who would be your account director, manager, copywriter, designer, runners, etc? Ask about their backgrounds and ask to see samples of their work. Pay attention to the personality of the account director, as he or she is the person you will spend the most time with if you hire that agency. Ask if the creative team is freelance or permanent staff. A permanently staffed firm is more likely to offer you a team that has experience working with each other.

  5. Ask about their technological capabilities. How much can they prepare in-house? Do they have to go outside for any services; if so, which services? Beware of agencies that are too technological: Look at their designs and watch out for those that emphasise computer special effects at the cost of good old-fashioned creativity!

  6. Ask what experience they have in your particular market. Do they know more than you know? What can they bring to the table in terms of information and insight you don't already have?

  7. Ask about their experience outside your market. Can they bring you fresh ideas and insights or will it be the same old stuff that's already out there?

  8. Does the agency favour one particular medium? Do they produce more print ads than brochures? What do they know about direct marketing? A firm that handles a variety of media is less likely to have a "media bias," meaning that they won't just recommend the mediums that they do best or most frequently.

  9. How do they bill? By the hour? By the project or the job? What does their pricing include? Do they give you a "guesstimate" or do they give you a package price? If they give you a package price, will they stick to it?

  10. Ask for references. Will they give you the names of some of their clients (active and past) whom you can call? Hearing what their clients say is as close to a proof of the pudding you can get without 'tasting' and hiring the agency!

Learn a lot and enjoy the show
While you are going through the interview process, don't forget to learn a lot.

Each marketing agency will give you an opportunity to see a variety of marketing materials. You'll pick up new ideas; identify styles you like and styles you do not like. And, last but not least, do not forget to enjoy the show.

Winnifred Knight:

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