Small firms (CPA, law, architects, engineers, etc.) often cannot afford full-time marketing staff. If there is full-time staff, budgets may limit the caliber of the person manning the position. As a result of the lack of an executive, full-time presence, most firms subcontract with outside agencies for some or all of their marketing.
Unfortunately, the outsourcing of this key business function leads to marketing that is not accountable to the goals of the business. Many agencies are specialists in one area and weaker in others. Consequently, the marketing strategies that are often pursued are not integrated and, therefore, unable to achieve results that are superior and sustainable. In addition to the lack of breadth in approach, there is also likely a lack of measurement as to how successful the programs have been.
Marketing can be one area of the business for which metrics are hard to establish, monitor, and enforce. Internally, your leadership team needs to determine your goals before retaining an agency. Is reputation management your main concern, or is lead generation the focus, or are you trying to develop brand presence in a new niche? Starting with the end in mind will drive your goal setting. Break the goals down into intermediate measurements. For instance, if a firm is looking for more leads and you know how many leads are desired, then establishing a desired cost per lead generated seems like a reasonable measurement. An intermediate measurement may be determining how many leads are desired. Or, the size of the marketing budget. (As a general best practice, it is encouraged that you think in terms of 1-2% of revenues for marketing budget.)
After the metrics have been developed, then it is time to contract with an agency. Interview multiple ones–even if one of your partners has a relationship with a principal in one firm in town. During the interviews, challenge the agencies to provide you a proposal as to how they could meet your goals, including budget. Ask them if they would be willing to provide reports on progress against budget and step aside if they do not help you meet your goals.
Adding accountability into your marketing will yield appreciable benefits over time. The ability to anticipate the outcome of certain marketing actions becomes a competency that drives business performance. Sensitivity analysis can then be applied to determine how minor tweaks to the mix will affect the overall outcome(s). Get started today. Don’t wait until you are less busy. You will be glad you did!