When you’re running a small business, it can feel overwhelming to try and ‘wear all the hats’, to get things done. You have to be the new business development person, sales manager, the accountant, product development, HR (even if you’re a solopreneur, you still have to take care of yourself), marketing director, operations director, and more! You get the picture. It can be overwhelming to stay on top of everything while ensuring your business is growing at a rate you’re happy with.

Perhaps you have thought about hiring someone, but you can’t necessarily cover a full monthly salary cost. You could consider an intern, but they may not have the experience necessary to get you to where you need to be. One option is to hire an agency to take care of your marketing efforts, but despite being professionals themselves, the fit is not always right. Here are some tips to look out for when looking to hire an agency:

Sometimes you will have the option to work together if you have a smaller project you want to try before signing a longer-term commitment, however this isn’t always the case. Either way you want to make sure that you have a good fit with the agency. They should uphold the same business values and ethical standards that you do as they are representing your brand. Despite people often complaining about the real cost of unproductive meetings, it often pays in this case to make sure you are totally happy with your pick before committing, even if this means several trips and face to face encounters.

Budget transparency:
It can be easy to take a budget at face value, but make sure you clarify all that is included. One of the biggest issues to cover is whether you are working on an hourly basis or with a set fee. If you are working hourly, you may be surprised when you get your bill at the end of the month, as it might be higher than what was quoted. Even simple tweaks and revisions to artwork can add up to a lot of extra time, and therefore money. Negotiating a set fee will ensure you don’t pay for any overages in hours worked.

Nothing is guaranteed:
Be wary of any agency that will guarantee you specific results such as ‘we’ll get you TV coverage’ or ‘we’ll guarantee you xx number of media hits/link’ or even ‘we’ll guarantee you 50,000 followers within the first month.’ I have worked with many clients who have been attracted by these guarantees only to find that they are empty, or of such low quality as to be worthless. The key is finding an agency who is as invested in your success as they are their own. It should be more like a partnership than two separate entities.

Know what success looks like:
Work with your agency to determine how you will know when your campaign has been successful. Every industry has certain metrics they track, and they all mean different things to different brands.

Check their track record:
A great agency will be able to put you in touch with current and former clients who will sing their praises. At the very least, they should be able to provide you with case studies of clients who have similar goals to your own. Just because an agency has a lot of clients listed on their site doesn’t mean they are the best at what they do.

Know your account team:
Don’t be afraid to ask who will be working on your account. It is common in a lot of agencies to sign a contract and then have the interns working on the bulk of the work to create higher profit margins. If you are concerned about this, just ask. Again, this is your brand, and you deserve to know who will be representing you to your audiences.

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