When I was a kid, my mom told my brother and me that she knew when we were lying because she could see “L’s” in our eyes. Like most moms, she had 360 degree laser vision and generally knew everything that was going on. But, it didn’t stop us kids from testing the situation. Before an inevitable confrontation, we’d anxiously ask each other, “Look in my eyes! Can you see the L’s?” We were more naïve than stupid and most of the time we got caught in our (very infrequent) lies.
In business, there are multitudinous layers of lying. And it’s something you need to understand in order to make the best decisions for your company.
This is a tough market and it’d make sense to look for a little bit of help. Is your business at an impasse? Do you know that you can do better but aren’t sure of where to turn? You need to shake things up, so where do you look? Most often, your choices will be an ad agency or a marketing firm/ consultancy. Beware the lies.
Lie #1: One size fits all
Keep in mind that one size doesn’t fit all. No one can be all things to all people all of the time. Figure out what you need before you jump in. If you believe you need to “look before you leap”, then your next step should be a marketing consultant who can help you map out a plan. If you’re willing to jump into that pool without knowing if it even has water, then go to an ad agency first. Marketing agencies/consultants and advertising agencies are your two primary choices.
Lie #2: We have your best interests in mind
Although they may claim to do similar things, they aren’t the same. And the easiest way to differentiate them is to think about how they make money. There are nice guys out there who will throw in a freebie everyone now and then. In the long run, checking the money path explains things pretty well. Some agencies may work on a retainer basis and get paid for a specified amount of time each month. But, their primary income for advertising and design agencies is from the projects they do for you. The more projects they do, the more money they make. The bigger the projects, the more money they make.
Marketing agencies or marketing consultants get paid for their time. When marketing consultancies are also selling SEO, website design or mobile marketing, they’ve crossed the line into selling more projects and bigger projects.
Lie #3: What’s good for me is good for you
Ad agencies may work on a range of projects – from TV advertising to web design and from online advertising to social media. Ad agencies often claim to offer strategic services, but most often (99.4% of the time) they don’t. They create strategies that will help them sell more o
f their services so they can make more money. You can be pretty sure that if you’re working with an ad agency who focuses on digital marketing (online ads, website development, etc.), they are not likely to propose that you pursue direct mail. Before you jump into anything, you should figure out the objectives and strategies that’ll work best for your company. For that reason, a marketing consultant might be the best first step.
Marketing consultants focus on creating strategies that work for your company, your industry, your situation. They offer a range of marketing services that can include, strategic planning, project management, coaching and/or interim staffing. Good consultants will partner with you, working to leverage the expertise and understanding you have in your company
Lie #4: We are experts on your company
Beware when you hear an agency or consultant tell you that they know your company better than you. While they should have new perspectives on how you can move your company forward, they should respect the fact that you are experts on your organization.
Alternatively, you have 2 big responsibilities. First, open your mind to new ideas. Second, don’t relinquish your power. I’ve seen customers follow an agency’s directions because they felt the agency was “an expert”. They didn’t feel the proposal fit their but claimed, “These guys are at the top of their game. We’d be silly not to trust them.” Not true. While you might need to take a small jump out of your comfort zone, you shouldn’t be abandoning your company history, your brand or your objectives.
Ad agencies and marketing consultants can be invaluable partners for both big and small businesses. Like most other tools, they’re best used when you know how, when and why to use them.