When you run a small business these days, most of what you see coming at you is a “you must” list. You must promote your products. You must promote your products via as many channels as possible. You must promote in an integrated fashion. The list goes on and on. What resonates with you is one thing, and one thing only. “I need to make sales happen. That’s what puts bread on the table.” When you add everything else you “must” do to that one single thing, the weight of the world can seem like it’s on your shoulders.
These days, there are plenty of people out there who will tell you that they can help you out. There are consultants who specialize in helping small businesses. There are PR experts. There are advertising experts. There are people who specialize in integrated marketing. There are Facebook specialists, not to mention Social Media specialists. All of these people have their fees. Many of them insist that once you hire them, you won’t need anybody else.
Feeling overwhelmed yet?
There is a way to lighten the load a bit. It might not be the solution you’re expecting. But let me suggest to you that an agency could really help you out.
Before I explain myself a bit more, let me define what I mean by “agency,” because I think the definition is a bit foggy out there. When I talk about an agency, I am using as reference my family’s agency, primarily because I can speak about that agency with a relatively large amount of authority. What we are not is a production house or a media buying house. When I say agency, I am talking about another business, perhaps small like your own, that can assist you in doing all of the things that are standing between you and actually increasing your sales. Instead of a specialist, I’m recommending you go visit a doctor of internal medicine, a resource that can offer guidance on the whole picture.
Pay for 1 day or pay for what you need
The thing about going the specialist route or the “guru” route is that a lot of times, they’ll come into your office, do a talk, teach you a lot of stuff, and then they’re gone. If you have questions in the future, it may or may not be hard to get a hold of them, and you are still left with doing everything that they recommended.
Here’s the thing about working with an agency. Hiring an agency is like hiring 1 new employee, except that you don’t have to pay for everyday expenses, health care or anything else. And if the agency does business like we do, you only have to pay when services are being rendered. The only training you will need to do is to teach your agency about your business. By the way, if you are working with someone from an agency and they come in with a complete proposal before touring your plant or office or talking to you about the challenges that face your particular business, they may not be the best match for you.
How Do I Know When I Need An Agency ?
Hiring an agency, just like hiring an employee, has to be a decision that you arrive to after some careful though, and after putting your business strategy to paper. However, if some of the following items are on your to-do list, an agency could lift a major burden from your shoulders:
- You want to introduce a new product or service, but you’re not sure if the market is ready, mature, or in desperate need
- You have gone through the painstaking process of developing a new product, but no one seems to care or notice
- You have been around for year and years and everyone who visits you says, “Wow, I had no idea you were here”
- You want to begin advertising
- You want to make the leap into Social Media
- You need to get some press releases developed and distributed about personnel changes, your office move, and that new product
- Your leading distributors are coming in for a meeting and you want to make the most of their time
- You want to start going to trade shows to exhibit and build your lead database
- You feel you need to do a better job of converting web traffic into customers
- Your website looks the same as it did in 1997
All of these things are important. All of them are complicated, too. Depending on your business, any single item on this list could be a multi-month project. Do you and your employees have the time to work on all of this while still keeping your business afloat? Do you want to hire ten different employees to handle this list?
Right now, the business world is aggressively competitive, and the niche of small business is highly lucrative for all of the experts out there. After all, many assume that the primary goal for small business is to get big. An agency can help you navigate these waters, but more importantly, an agency can look at your business through your eyes, from production or the beginning of a service to the sale or the end of your process. If an agency does its job well, it can become the hub for other connections that prove useful to you. An agency can recommend a great printer for that new brochure. An agency can recommend a great SEO firm to make sure that new website gets to the first page of Google.
It Won’t Always Be Perfect
I know that there are a lot of agencies out there who don’t do things in the most reputable way possible. Many companies feel that their agencies didn’t listen to them, or that the ego of the agency people seemed more important than accomplishing what needed to be accomplished. Interview your agency as you would an employee. Look for engagement. Look for a legitimate and authentic desire to learn your business. Look at their longevity, and ask them what their longest existing relationships are. If they tout their Social Media abilities, look for their blog or their Twitter account. Due diligence is always a good idea. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. An agency could be a huge help to you, and who wants to miss getting help in times like these?