From the outside there is likely a lot of confusion around how to really tell marketing companies apart. But with the insider’s lens that we’ll give you in this post, you’ll see the differences and use them well.
Price is a Horrible Differentiator
That is how most people make decisions on what marketing firm to go with. “This one is cheaper based on our RFP.” So said the bean counter who probably buys generic toothpaste because it does the same job as brand name. Yet price, in many situations, is a bad indicator of quality. Price is an indication of many other aspects of the market and availability to the right talent or information. So, when you are thinking about professional services, you want the right information and that will have a price that meets that demand in the market. Buying low means you are buying low value, or high availability information and consulting.
It’s not toothpaste, it’s your future. Don’t buy low.
How You Pick Your Marketing Firms
In many ways, picking a marketing firm is like picking the tools from the toolbox. You might need a set of tools, you might need one tool; it all depends on what you are trying to do. As your company grows, you might move from having no marketing team to using a marketing firm to help position and start your lead generation marketing. You might use a design firm to help create a great visual image for a trade show. You might also contact a few channel marketing firms for some targeted ads your marketing firm recommended you do. Here’s how all these firms align in the bigger picture.
These are firms of very creative graphic designers, videographers, and visual specialists. The good ones are masterful at translating a position or concept in the market into visual language. If you want some visual stuff created, these can be great firms to work with.
These firms are like design firms on steroids. They do the visual aspects of a design firm, but they have the intellect and knowledge of the industries you work in to help you create the brand image you desire. They not only create the graphics from your market position, they help you define your market position.
Web Development Shops
These are the marketing-meets-nerd shops that build some of the internet’s greatest destinations. They are usually staffed with some UX designers, developers, content people, and masterminds of digital production. They usually only have websites in the portfolio, because that is what they do. They don’t make logos, or do branding, or send email, because they are not marketers, they are developers. And many of them are fantastic at it.
These are the firms that combine the consulting of market position, definition, and approach, usually toward the generation of new business. These are what we call “Lead Generation” firms. They focus on bottom-line business development, not pretty pictures or launching the website. They are strategic, with a deep knowledge of your space and industry, combined with some degree of execution. New North is a firm like this; we have deep knowledge of the tech and consulting spaces, and put our insight to use to generate leads for your business. We don’t build massive mobile apps or do billboards. We execute consulting across proven channels.
These are marketing companies that push a specific “channel” or marketing platform. For example, a firm that only does social media would be a social media channel marketing firm. They are usually very good at that one specific tactic, and likely have a low price point on the service. You’ll find them in every channel, and they’re usually really good choices if you’re looking to get the most out of that channel. Citing a previous example, if I was wanting to put up 30 billboards, I’d talk to a media placement agency that specialized in that channel.
These aren’t firms, per se, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? There are amazing freelancers and some that should be barred from the profession. The risk and reward can be great on these, so tread lightly. But these are typically tactical specialists; they do one or two things very well. They are good for spot projects, but maybe not for running your entire marketing campaign.
How Scale Matters
As you might have suspected, there are also big differences in a one-person marketing firm and a 100-person marketing firm. The reality is that as firms scale up, they are actually able to combine many functions into one. A ten person marketing firm might also have a good web development team as well. A 30 person design firm might have a digital side as well. It all goes to say that with scale comes more options in the same house. But note that big does not always mean better. It means more.
Making Your Choice
I hope this article helps you decide what is the right firm for you right now. Not every decision is the right one, and not every decision needs to be forever. But making the right choice can push your firm into growth and real gains quickly.