Just Sayin’

Why Hire an Advertising Agency?

Why hire a lawyer or an accountant? Most likely to represent your interests legally, or to make sure you are effectively managing your financial matters. After all, it’s probably a good idea to have someone more experienced representing you in court. And it’s probably a good idea for a skilled CPA to be checking your math.

The same can be said for your marketing investment. In order to develop a formula that fits your capabilities and allows you to be consistent, as well as hit the target, you don’t just want to rely solely on your own instincts or experience. Why? Because, as the old saying goes, “We’re all ignorant. It’s just in different areas.”

The reality is, it’s more important to find out what your customers think. We are not experts who automatically know what your customers think, but we do know how to find out. It’s one of the most important things we do, because the research provides us with a roadmap to find new customers, and retain and receive referrals from existing ones. This tactical expertise is a factor that most of our customers find of greatest value in their experience at JP Marketing.

In my previous entry, I mentioned the failing of our industry to have more uniform standards and practices, such as lawyers and accountants do. This makes it harder to determine the qualifications of the advertising agencies a prospective client would consider. How does the prospective client overcome this shortcoming? It takes some work, but it is possible.

In the business world, nothing can replace due diligence. But it is remarkable how often we don’t do adequate background checks on those we associate with, let alone those who spend our money for us. Yes, it is important for prospective clients to check referrals from an agency’s existing clients, but you have to go further.  You have to follow the money.

Probably the number one factor in gaining a client’s trust is transparency, especially when it comes to paying bills. Does your prospective agency have a solid record of payment to media vendors? Call a couple of the local TV stations or the newspaper and ask for the accounting department. They’ll tell you if the prospective agency pays its bills consistently in a timely manner. Does the agency provide a detailing billing ledger that includes all media invoices and any other expenditures or fees? Ask the agency to show you an example of a monthly statement and see if it gives you adequate information to determine where your money is going.

After you’ve come to know the business reputation of the agency you’re considering, then the examination can turn to overall capabilities. How does the agency deliver creative? Is it through an in-house creative team or through independent contractors? This can reveal whether or not an agency can deliver materials effectively in a timely manner in a deadline-driven business. Do they have experience in all forms of current media, including web and digital? Can they provide adequate examples of successful creative work? Does the agency have a strong track record of account retention? These are just some of the questions that can/should be asked.

Advertising agencies, despite the way they are sometimes portrayed, are service businesses with specific creative communication talents. Their capabilities need to be of significant value to their clients over the long haul in order to be successful. Really, more sweat than glamour.

One thing we often point out to new clients is that we will most likely be more effective in our second year than we were during our first year because we’ve had the opportunity to go through an entire business cycle with them. The relationship is an investment and collaboration by both parties to realize the client’s full potential, and the agency has the steeper learning curve. Remember, you can’t ask enough questions. And, if you don’t get adequate answers from your prospective agency, it could mean “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!” to quote the robot from the old “Lost in Space” TV series. I hate it when I date myself….

~ Paul Quebe, Owner of JP Marketing