If the time has come for you to upscale your marketing efforts and outsource the promotion of your event, congratulations!
However, handing over ‘your baby’ to the care of another can feel rather daunting. You’ve nurtured it and helped it grow into a successful event, taking care of every marketing task yourself.
How can you be sure whoever you appoint is going to carry on your work as diligently, if not more diligently and help take your event’s promotion to the next level?
Here’s a guide to choosing the right marketing agency for your event and managing client-agency expectations so you can enjoy a happy and fruitful partnership.
Know what you’re looking for
It sounds obvious, but the first thing you need to do is get a clear idea of what you want from a marketing agency. Write a full brief detailing the services you need, such as web design, social media, AdWords campaign management, video production, SEO etc. and set out your goals in each area.
Try to be specific in your targets, for example if you’re currently at 10,000 Twitter followers and you want to reach 20,000 within the next 12 months, tell them so.
Once your aspirations are defined you will have a better idea of the capabilities your marketing agency needs to possess. In addition, you will have a comprehensive document to submit to potential agencies so that they understand your requirements – and whether or not they can meet them.
However, do try to be realistic – stating that you want to rank number 1 in a very competitive search field with a tight budget for SEO or PPC will challenge even the most dynamic agency.
If you do decide to set very ambitious targets, beware of any agency that readily promises they can reach them – are they simply trying to get the business?
Do your research
If you are aware of other events with great marketing, and they’re not your direct competitors, there’s nothing to stop you calling up and asking which agency they’re using. You can also make use of professional networks such as LinkedIn to gain recommendations.
Reading the marketing trade press (sites like The Drum, Campaign, Marketing Week and Ad Age) is another great way to find out the agencies behind your favourite campaigns. While you might wish to use an agency with proven event experience, if it’s creativity you’re after, it’s worth considering a broader spectrum.
Once you have a list of agencies to check out, conduct a review of their websites and look at the core competencies they promote. If you’re looking for an agency that’s strong in social media, make sure that’s something mentioned on their homepage. Check out their client list and past projects. Look at the KPIs achieved – how do they align with your own ambitions?
Other factors to weigh up when making your shortlist will be location (if you’re in Southampton and they’re in Manchester and you prefer to meet face-to-face, this will obviously not be ideal) and the size of the agency.
Do you want to be a big client for a small agency or a small client for a big agency? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this. While smaller agencies may give you more time and attention, bigger agencies may have more experience and a wider pool of resources to dip into. Your decision will depend on personal choice and the impression you receive from each agency contender.
Invite them to pitch
Hopefully you will have provided the agency with your brief, giving them a clear understanding of what you’re looking for and enabling them to address these specific requirements.
However, the agency should also demonstrate a wider understanding of your event brand and the industry in which it sits. They should have conducted their research, just like you did yours. How does their pitch show knowledge of the market and your business model? Do they show innovation and are you excited by their ideas?
Find out exactly who would be working on your account. You might feel a real synergy with the individual giving the pitch, but later discover they won’t actually be actively working on your event. It’s important you get a chance to meet the person/people who will,and confirm they too have the experience you desire, and that you connect with them on a human level.
A physical meeting with the agency at their offices will also let you get a good feel of the company culture and assess how it meshes with your own.
You wouldn’t hire a new employee without requesting references, so why wouldn’t you do the same when hiring an agency? Your marketing agency will work as an extension of your team, so you have every right to ask for evidence of their past performance.
Ask to be put in touch with clients directly so you can ask any specific questions and be sure of getting an up-to-date, verified opinion (as opposed to a canned testimonial that could be several years old).
Do ask the reference-giver about any challenges they encountered – not because you are trying to catch the agency out, but to get a realistic view of what it’s like to work with them.
You can also carry out further scrutiny by checking online review sites like topseos.com, which ranks the performance of internet marketing agencies based on a variety of metrics.
Undoubtedly one of your key questions when looking to appoint a marketing agency will be, ‘How much should I pay?” and you will have an idea of what you’re willing to spend. However, keep your budget to yourself until the prospective agency has quoted.
It is always interesting to see how much costs differ from agency to agency, but that’s not to say you should go for the cheapest option. An agency with very low costs is probably one to be avoided – how are they cutting corners?
Meanwhile, there’s no reason you can’t negotiate with one that’s a little pricey. Don’t be afraid to challenge each cost when trying to strike a good deal – perhaps propose a discounted initial fee so you can test the water, rising to full whack once the results become evident.
Bear in mind the old adage “you get what you pay for,” which is certainly true when it comes to marketing. It is necessary to speculate to accumulate – and if you choose the right marketing agency, it will undoubtedly pay off.
Ultimately, much of choosing a marketing agency for your event will come down to gut instinct, but do your due diligence and you’ll have a far smaller chance of coming a cropper.