You can tell if someone doesn’t know how to cook, drive or speak a language. In business you know who will make a great CFO, CEO or assistant. Marketing has changed so much in the last few years it can be difficult to determine the efficacy of their programs and processes. Many traditional marketing firms worked to integrate social media and digital marketing. They did this through acquisition or new hires. The acquisitions often paid off for all involved including clients. The risk when firms hire new capabilities is inadequate oversight, reliance on outmoded philosophy, and overselling/under-delivering. Here are 5 things to beware of in your agency search process.
1. Fans are worth $x
This was a hot topic for years. Many groups tried to assign a dollar amount to fans to answer the question, “What’s the ROI on social media.” Be cautious if an agency if pitching you a specific ROI. It takes a deep understanding of your business model and structure to determine an ROI from social. Asking, “What is the ROI of social media,” is like asking “What is the meaning of life?” It is a vague semantic gulag. Instead, you want to understand the ROI from your marketing, your campaigns, and your relationships.
2. It worked for X
Social media (like many aspects of business and marketing) is not one size fits all. IBM stopped tracking sick days and vacation time. That works with their culture and they saved thousands of dollars in HR costs. That won’t work for many companies. Time magazine increased its fan base by posting up to 3 times per hour. While it may work for you, it may be too difficult enact. An agency who promotes the tactical successes of other brands is missing out on strategies relevant to you. Some agencies promote tactics of much larger firms in other industries. It sounds obvious but keep this in mind when listening to a pitch or strategy session. Are they really talking about strategies for you or are they talking about tactics that worked for someone else?
3. You just need more followers
More followers sounds great and increasing your audience is an important goal and is valuable but not a cohesive strategy. Often when you hear this from an agency, they will either buy fans/followers (yes you can do that, no you shouldn’t do that) or sell ads that build your audience. There is a crucial difference between a large audience and an engaged audience. Woodstock had a large audience of engaged fans listening to Ten Years After and Country Joe. How engaged would they have been if Metallica came on stage next? When you buy fans, if they stick around for longer than a few days, you are Metallica playing to thousands of muddy kids on a Bethel, NY farm.
4. Guaranteed ROI
We have had great success with SEO. For one client we delivered a 400% increase in organic traffic. Our CRO efforts have helped increase conversion rates by 40%+ for clients. For some that is over $1MM of additional revenue. We would never guarantee any of these numbers. In our time in this business we have developed a keen eye for new clients. We have a sense of how effective each effort will be but we wouldn’t want to commit to an ROI. In fact, we turn down business if we feel there is enough opportunity for you to work on your own. This is important for two reasons. You sign up for a difficult accounting process when it comes time to pay your agency. Also, If the agency meets the numbers they agree to, they have no incentive to continue.
5. No commitment to work
When you sign with an agency please make sure you are clear on the work they are doing for you. Avoid fuzzy language such as, “manage social media profiles.” Does that mean updating images, posting, replying, something else? Our sentiment analysis reports are printable documents and you get one per quarter. Our strategy sessions are 1 or 2 days of work in your office with your team. You will have tangible, actionable deliverables. Make sure you review any exhibits and addendum in the contracts you sign. Are you clear about what you are buying?
Bonus tip: Get an experienced lawyer. These are just a few tips to help save you from major hassles and lost money. One way to do this is to find a tech-savvy lawyer. You can avoid so much pain and misery by doing it right the first time.
Image courtesy of Flickr user joybot