Wednesday, February 29, 2012

5 Tips for Choosing a Small Business Advertising Agency

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

You’re a small business with a limited budget for marketing and advertising, but you need exposure. Large advertising agencies tend to work with big business and Fortune 500 companies, and their fees are often cost-prohibitive. So, how do you navigate the sea of choices when choosing how to spend your precious dollars?

The key to making strategic marketing decisions is aligning your company with an agency that specializes in small business advertising. Remember the following tips when deciding which small business advertising agency is the right one for you.

Here's a flowchart on how typical small business
ad agencies work. Click to view original images.
  1. Consider the agency’s current client base. Be sure to peruse the ad agency’s own website; it will serve as a good indication of the work they do for their clients. Any reputable ad agency should provide a list of their clients and showcase the work they have done for them. As a small business, you should select an advertising agency with clients who are similar in size and scope to yours. Ad agencies that work with small businesses and service industries take an approach that is unique to advertising on a local level. Make it your due diligence to find the best match for your goals.
  2. Inquire how the agency is structured. As a small business owner, you wear several hats in your business: CEO, marketing director, human resources manager. Your small business advertising agency partner should be able to guide you through the advertising and design process and take the place of an internal marketing department. In other words, the staff should fall somewhere between a one-man show and a five-level design committee. While it is wise to avoid a multi-layered approach, try to choose an advertising agency whose staff represents a mix of each advertising discipline: creative design, copywriting, web development and overall account management.
  3. Experience IS necessary. You are hiring an advertising agency for a job (hopefully, a long-term one) and industry credentials should support their experience. Question the staff’s competence in all media strategies and channels, both traditional and innovative. Effective agencies must keep up with today’s ever-changing landscape and technology in order to design successful strategies for their clients. Awards won by agencies are certainly important, but the specific credentials, accolades and industry recognition show expertise
  4. Does the agency support creative interaction? Yes, you are hiring an small business advertising agency for their creative and strategic expertise. But, sometimes egos can get in the way. Your opinion is invaluable in shaping your brand’s development. When interviewing ad agencies, consider the personalities there. Reinforce the importance of open communication and make sure the agency encourages client feedback.
  5. Does their work excite you? An advertising agency's portfolio is a good indication of the work you should expect to get from them. Make sure you are impressed with their body of creative work and their ability to create advertising design work which meet defined marketing goals. Viewing small business advertising case studies is one way to see a holistic approach to brand integration.

Your small business advertising agency should also be your strategic partner. It can be complex for small businesses to get a handle on their advertising plan. Not surprisingly, sometimes the only direction small businesses receive is from those who sell advertising space. Ad sales executives will likely advise small businesses to put their advertising dollars into the outlets they represent, even when it does not makes strategic sense. Select an agency that has your best interests in mind, reviewing your budget and helping you to invest your advertising dollars where they are most effective.

Selecting the right advertising agency is a critical decision for your small business. Take the time to do your homework and choose a partner that will strengthen your brand and grow your business.

Dan Antonelli is the President and Creative Director of Graphic D-Signs, Inc, a NJ Advertising Agency specializing in small business advertising, marketing, and brand development, including HVAC logo design, and HVAC web design services.