Marketing agencies and startups: Finding the middle ground
When you are part of a start-up company, it can be hard to develop your business when your team and your budget is so limited. If you don’t have a market-minded person on the team, you will likely have to outsource to a marketing agency to spread the word on your company. Because agencies often deal with larger companies with institutionalized work processes, the same methods don’t always gel well with start-ups. Whether its marketing, public relations, consulting or a combination of services, agencies can often operate on an “I know best” mandate, leaving some start-up companies feeling less-than-thrilled.
A recent blog by David Berkowitz looks at the tenuous startup/agency relationship and proposes that agencies need to go back to basics when it comes to business relationships. Age-old advice like showing up, following up, being honest, providing something of value, trusting your clients and generating good karma is even more potent when you set out to work with a startup. Unlike many larger companies, startups and their founders know their business intimately. Their business goes with them to bed, to the grocery store, and even on vacation. Not only do agencies have to learn to understand their client’s business, but they have to build trust with the startup founders and executives before being given control. For a founder, handing power to an external agency can cause some serious separation anxiety.
Often startups don’t have a choice when it comes to public relations or marketing, if they are unable to afford a full-time employee to do those things. Client acquisition and promotion is typically what companies have to invest in first when they are getting off the ground. When looking for an agency, do your research and find an agency that specializes in what you need. Just because a company says they do social media management, or public relations, doesn’t mean they will be successful with your particular campaign. First, properly assess the skills you have in-house with your team members, and then detail the kind of work you would need an agency to do.
One of the best parts of being a startup is other startups; the startup community is strong, as we like to show solidarity to other fledgling companies. Ask your startup friends for advice: did they hire an agency, who did they use, how long did it take to see ROI, what are some mistakes/pitfalls to avoid, etc.
The biggest issue with startups looking to hire an agency is the price attached, as many agency fees can get pretty steep, and results are not guaranteed. It is the agency’s job to manage expectations, and give you a clear idea of what they can achieve. Creating a reward-based payment system is the best way to get value from an agency, as they are incentivized to achieve results. Above all, communication is key to nurture a trusting relationship between an agency and a startup. Agencies may have trouble with the more cooperative relationship at first, but it will pay off when you can help a startup on its way to becoming a Fortune 500 company.
This is a guest contribution from Amanda Parker. It was first published on Aha Moment Inc's blog and can be found here and is posted in The Accelerator Gazette with her permission.
Amanda Parker is the Founder & CEO of Aha Moment Media http://ahamomentinc.com/. Aha Moment provides integrated and tailored digital marketing and PR solutions to tech-focused startups and small businesses. You can reach Amanda at email@example.com and you can follow her on twitter at @amandaparkerpr
For more helpful tips on marketing for startups, visit ahamomentinc.com