DECIDING TO USE AN ADVERTISING AGENCY FOR BUSINESS
Advertising agencies are full-service businesses which can manage every aspect of an advertising campaign. They vary widely in terms of size and scope and cater to different kinds of businesses. Some agencies have one or major clients whose accounts they manage. Others have hundreds of clients spread throughout the country or the world, as well as many field offices from which to service them. In general, an advertising agency will be able to manage an account, provide creative services, and purchase media access for a client.
Deciding To Use An Agency
Depending upon how important advertising is to the overall health of a particular business, and the amount of resources for the use in advertising, a business owner should consider whether an investment in the services of an advertising agency will yield meaningful benefits.
Benefits of Advertising Agencies
Advertising agencies provide a valuable resource for any enterprise seeking to increase its customer base or its sales. They bring together professionals with expertise in a wide array of communication fields, and often – though not always – produce polished, quality ads that are well beyond the capacities of the client. Agencies are generally knowledgeable about business strategies and media placement as well.
The media-buying experts at an agency will develop a strategic, targeted media plan for their clients, drawing upon years of experience and close relationships with media professionals. This experience and these connections are likely not available to the small business owner, and can be important factors in launching a successful media campaign.
Drawbacks of Advertising Agencies
One drawback to using an agency, of course, is the added stress of dealing with unfamiliar people and unknown territory. Choosing the right agency will take time, and the process of reaching a satisfactory campaign can be a tasking and time-consuming one (especially if the client is vague about his or her desires, or expects a top-dollar campaign at a bargain-basement price). Work will have to be reviewed, changed, and reviewed again. And the account will have to be monitored closely. As with any outside contractor, the business owner will need to keep careful tabs on what is received for his or her hard-earned dollar.
Selecting a particular advertising agency
Agencies vary widely in their focus. Some cater only for few large clients, and do not generally accept new accounts. Others have hundreds of clients of varying sizes. It is important for a business to work with an agency that will be able to devote the time needed to insure a successful ad campaign. Smaller, local agencies can usually offer more one-on-one attention. On the other hand, agencies that maintain a stable of larger companies are unlikely to regard a small business as an important client unless they are convinced that the establishment is destined for big things. At the same time, however, larger agencies can sometimes enhance a smell business’s reputation and improve its geographic reach.
Instead, the agency should ideally be one that is familiar with the specific set of concerns shared by most small businesses. Indeed, it is very important that the advertising agency understand that issues that a small owner must consider. These include having a limited advertising budget, finding a niche in a community, and establishing a loyal customer base.
The agency should have worked in the past for clients in similar situations; it is not imperative, though, that they have other clients which are exactly the same as your business. If the business is a bookstore, for example, and the agency has never promoted a bookstore before, it does not mean they will necessarily be a poor choice to create and manage an advertising campaign. They may have done work for other local retail stores that have faced the same obstacles and challenges.
One of the best ways to choose an agency is the same way you would choose a bank, a doctor, or a housepainter; ask someone you trust who they use. If your friends, neighbors, or fellow business owners have used an agency they are pleased with, it is worth further inquiry. If you see advertising you really like, call up the business and compliment them on their good taste; then ask who prepares their ad copy. The agency – client relationship is very much trust-based. And the creative work agencies do is subjective. You should work with an agency whose collective personality and creative work make you feel comfortable. These services will cost a considerable amount, and starting off with a firm you feel optimistic about will help insure your satisfaction throughout the relationship.
During the introductory meeting, the agency will be prepared to show samples of their work. These are called histories, and they should be relevant to your business. The samples should reflect the agency’s understanding of the needs of your business – including who your customer base is – and a working knowledge of the kind of marketing necessary to sell your products.
As a potential client, you should feel free to ask many questions concerning the approach of the advertisements, the audience reached by certain media, and what media plans have been developed for businesses similar to yours. An agency, though, should never be asked to do work “on spec.” Advertising agencies cannot afford to use their considerable creative resources doing free work for potential clients. The case histories they provide, along with the answers to any questions you may have, should be sufficient to decide whether to give them your business.
Once you have found an agency you feel comfortable with, and have together agreed upon a budget and a timeline for the advertising, the agency will begin producing copy for you to approve. Laying a strong foundation, including asking all the questions you have as they arise, will pave the way for a productive, mutually beneficial relationship.
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