Are Two Marketing Consultants Too Many?

6 01 2009

Stellar marketing professionals are true opportunists, scouring all media for diamonds in the rough. Creative, cost-effective opportunities are integrated into powerful marketing mixes and normally include search engine marketing, on-line advertising and traditional media. Integrating on-line efforts with print and broadcast is a fine art, and few do it well.

Here are the options, pros and cons for small-to-mid size businesses:

In-house Integration – Micromanaging multiple vendors, media reps and employees can be a tough job. The responsibility for holding these moving parts together, while disseminating your message consistently, is yours, and that equals more nights and weekends behind the computer. Hiring in-house assistance is often more expensive than outsourcing to proficient marketers. But if your strength is managing multiple specialists and vendors, you might successfully skip the professional strategy help.

Full Service Agency – Finding an affordable consultancy with a reasonable monthly retainer is another challenge for small and mid size businesses. Many traditional agencies have no business managing on-line campaigns. Buyers have been trained to commoditize media into the cheapest cost-per-point (price for reach) and pursue added-value relentlessly. They fixate on numbers and dollars, and miss the real value of creative digital tactics and campaigns when presented.

Digital Agency – These companies serve an invaluable role, and should be part of the mix. Internet advertising is so broad, addressing all of a company’s digital needs under one roof is nearly impossible. Digital agencies are broken into two categories: creative and specialists, and sometimes you need both. Creative digital agencies develop dynamic websites, coach strategy, purchase Internet media, write content, and carefully track ROI, goals and objectives. Specialists are search engine marketers (like Formic Media), mobile experts, email and database specialists, digital videographers or niche buyers (ad networks, specific verticals, audio, etc.). Larger digital agencies normally manage the specialists. Smaller businesses often manage a network of creative and specialist freelancers.

Two Agency Scenario – Too many digital agencies look down at traditional media as irrelevant dinosaurs from a different age. Radio, television and print buyers are afraid to acknowledge their limited technical expertise and dodge the digital objections. Each marketer is busy protecting their interests, not necessarily the client’s best interest. Both have compelling arguments and are persuasive.

The best scenario for small-to-midsize businesses is hiring two agencies (one traditional and the other digital) that work together well. Pay each independently, so both are accountable to you. When crafting your marketing plan and budgets, encourage collaboration and integration between the two. Yes, some arbitration will be required, but more creative and effective campaigns will be presented. Keen interest should be paid to ideas crossing the digital divide between traditional and internet media.

When reviewing your advertising and marketing operations, carefully consider your agency relationships (or lack of), and ask the following questions:

· For in-house solutions, is someone specifically responsible for integrating traditional and Internet marketing strategies? Someone needs to be the marketing integration watch dog.

· When reviewing full-service agencies that handle both traditional and Internet media, probe beyond the “we integrate well” standard lip service, and ask for examples of integrated campaigns. Dive deep into the particulars and details.

· Digital agencies that evangelize the “pending death of traditional media” need to be carefully scrutinized. How experienced are their leaders? Such vendor are probably specialists, and need to be integrated into the overall marketing mix.

· Regardless of the agency scenario, make each group continually evaluate your goals, objectives, return-on-investment (ROI) measurement and analytics. Just because traditional media does not always quantify through Google Analytics, it still needs consideration, especially the internet assets.

· When using two agencies, one for traditional and another for interactive, do they collaborate and partner on planning? Do they have such referrals or examples integration?

· Why do competitors seem to find better internet advertising opportunities? Agencies are often filters for good ideas. Too often buyers have great ideas pitched by their media reps and vendors, but disregard them. Require your advertising consultants to pass on more ideas from their partners. You are probably already missing quality campaigns and opportunities.

When changing your marketing and advertising structure, search for smart internet advertising people with traditional media background. Some of the best internet marketers are at full service ad agencies. Hire these creative strategists help plan media mixes with clear goals, objectives and tactics. Then find your team of internet advertising specialists.

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