We are often asked what separates our organization from a competitor. It’s a fair question and one that we ask of potential business partners as well. We’re a boutique marketing firm which means we are small in size, selective on the clients we take on, and passionately invested in customer outcomes. It also means we can be more creative than bigger firms since we have a keen sense of what’s relevant to our clients’ customers and truly care about the results.

To be clear, I’m not saying larger marketing firms are bad, care less about the outcomes or are ineffective. However, I also want to flip the thought process that smaller firms don’t have the capabilities to match the high capacity of creative needs and/or results of larger firms.

When selecting your marketing partner – whether for a short-term project or a long-term relationship – there are numerous factors to consider asking during your vetting process.

  • Expertise/previous experience in your industry. A firm that already knows your industry brings with them a depth of knowledge on the challenge that you face (both internally and externally), the “lingo” (including all your unique acronyms!) for your market and can usually launch quickly and effectively into the initiatives. Having said that, keep in mind that a firm with strong capabilities and years of experience in a variety of other industries can be just as successful for you. Other considerations noted below should also be evaluated. 
  • The team. Often a new business development (e.g. “sales”) person will be the initial point of contact for you; the pitch/presentation to your organization may be made by senior level individuals. Ensure you understand who is working on your account. It’s nice to have the support of senior level executives of course, but it’s more critical to understand who will actually be working with you and if the point person(s) are a cultural fit with your organization. In larger firms, the account work will be pushed down to individuals who have little or no expertise in your industry and/or no direct relationship with you. We have found that direct relationships drive better work and enhanced outcomes.

It’s also important to recognize the years of experience of the individuals working on the account. Those with more experience can conduct the work more effectively and efficiently, bring new ideas to the table and provide both strategy and implementation skills at a higher level to benefit your organization.

  • Ask about a failure. No one is perfect, and certainly not marketing firms. Ask your potential partners about a time when a project failed and the reasons behind it and/or lessons learned. Beware of those that “have never failed” as that will tell you two things: first they are not being completely honest (and is that the way you want to start the relationship?) and second they haven’t had the process of learning from mistakes (and they might make the same mistakes for/with you).

Of course, budget is always an important factor in your decision-making process but consider the fact that a slightly higher-priced agency may be more effective and efficient with time, more creative (thus fewer changes, and less taxing on your time) and have the ability to take more work off of your shoulders.

As you look to the year ahead and your marketing partnerships, take a second (and third) look at smaller firms with more expertise and I promise you’ll find the right fit for your organization.  Need a place to start? Contact Chartwell Agency and determine if our boutique agency with concierge service to our clients is right for you!