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How to Choose the Right Marketing Agency


By Jeffrey Barnhart

Every business needs a marketing partner to be successful. You might be thinking that I’m being somewhat biased when I make that statement because I’ve been in the marketing industry for more than 40 years, in addition to CEO and president of the marketing agency, Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA), for 31 of those years. I can assure you that it’s not the reason. However, that could be why I’ve dedicated my life to the marketing industry. When I help businesses succeed, it makes me feel happy and fulfilled. There are some essential attributes to consider for how to choose the right marketing agency.

Before I dive into that, let’s examine why marketing is so critical for a business. Marketing is not a nice to have. It’s one of the most critical aspects for business success—from building and maintaining your brand in the marketplace—to growing sales and customers. Without marketing, your business can’t grow. Your potential customers won’t know about your business, products or service offerings. Your current customers will become less engaged and loyal over time, resulting in a decrease in sales and customers, which will ultimately give your competitors an advantage.

Partnering with a marketing agency is like a marriage. It’s critical to find the right fit, especially if you anticipate that it’s going to be a long-term collaboration. In my experience, the best marketing partnerships are ones that last many years because they offer so many benefits. The challenge is going to be how to find a marketing agency that will achieve your business goals.

Following is what to look for in a marketing agency, before you officially “tie the knot”:

Shared Core Values – One of the most important aspects to choosing the right marketing agency is to select one that shares the same core values as your business. Core values are traits that represent an organization’s highest priorities and beliefs. Think about what your business’s core values are and how they should align with the marketing agency in which you choose to partner.

According to a recent Forbes article, three core values businesses should strive to have at all times to lead its company to success include passion, empathy and innovation. At CMA, we have Crew Values, which include passion, enthusiasm, excellence, professionalism, solutions-oriented, accountability and teamwork. I hire and surround myself with people that share those core values, to ensure that they buy into the agency’s philosophy and provide excellent service to our clients. To take that one step further and to reward employees who share in that vision, CMA implemented the Crew Star award. It acknowledges a team member each quarter for his or her dedication to the company’s core values, while spreading these positive principles to the team.

Businesses also want to look for a marketing agency that makes giving back a priority, if that’s what’s central to them. Plus, align themselves with a marketing agency that believes in the same causes and charities. CMA cares and is very involved in its local community and giving back. Community is central to CMA, with more than 3,000 hours dedicated to volunteering, fundraising and pro bono services over the past three decades.

Full-Service Offerings – There are all types of marketing agencies. Some specialize in particular areas and offer niche services in certain industries. While others consider themselves only a digital marketing agency or an online marketing agency and don’t offer any other marketing services. Other types of marketing agencies can provide the entire boatload of integrated marketing communications (IMC) solutions including public relations, social media marketing, digital marketing, branding, advertising, event management and publications, across a broad range in industries. There are advantages to selecting a marketing agency that can provide your business with a plethora of services. This type of agency can examine your business goals from a broad-range perspective and determine which solutions will give you the best ROI, instead of making recommendations that are based on the one service it offers.

Often times a business will come to CMA and say, “I need an advertisement.” After asking questions and doing a strategic analysis on their business, we determine that maybe they do need an advertisement, but putting a marketing infrastructure in place first will maximize ROI. Choosing a marketing agency that’s equipped to service your business today, as well as in the future—especially because long-term relationships are so vital—is something to highly consider when choosing a marketing agency.

Successful Track Record – Everyone wants to be associated with a winner. The same is true when a business looks to partner with a marketing agency. When a marketing agency has years of experience, with many awards under its belt, it’s a strong testimonial to its success in those industries. Outside endorsements, from leading industry organizations, serve as unbiased third parties. They are powerful and can set a marketing agency a part from its competitors. When choosing the right marketing agency, strongly consider one with a proven track record of delivering award-winning results to its clients. CMA is proud to have won more than 350 industry awards, on behalf of its clients, in addition to awards for its participation in charitable activities.

Longevity in Business – Marriage has its up and downs, much like a business. The key is to be able to weather those downturns and hard times. When you’re looking for a marketing partner, you’ll want to select one that has been around, has an established name and can weather economic and other downturns. I always joke and say that I must have been crazy to leave my corporate job to start CMA during a recession. The reality is that if a business can rebound from several recessions and catastrophic events like 911, it’s a solid business and one in which you want to seek to partner. These types of businesses had to learn to adapt and worked out the kinks. As a result, they run like well-oiled machines. They also had to be excellent at marketing or had a strong marketing partner, to have been able to stay in business and maintain a leadership position.

Creative & Fun Culture – Marketing is a creative business. It’s one of the many things I enjoy about being in this industry. Accordingly, look for a marketing agency that has creativity and fun built into its culture. It not only will be an enjoyable partnership, but chances are, they’ll inject the same energy and creativity into your marketing. CMA embraces a workplace that fosters fun and creativity for its clients and staff, from summer BBQs and team-building relay races, to a pet-friendly environment. Our workspace is designed to decrease stress levels in a hectic, high-speed environment, while allowing our clients the flexibility to bring their pets along to meetings and brainstorms at our office. CMA’s pet-friendly, casually-dressed office space abides by the agency’s principles I mentioned earlier.

In closing, searching for a marketing agency is like seeking out your ideal spouse. You need to consider certain qualities. Like a marriage, when you find “the one,” you’ll be happy, go the distance and have many successes along the way.

Are you in the process of choosing the right marketing agency for your business? Contact us today, to get the conversation started.

Jeffrey Barnhart is the President and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, an award-winning, full service marketing agency, that builds reputation, relationships and return on investment.