Gut Check: Are You Ready To Work With An Ad Agency?
You’re an independent retail jewelry storeowner doing it all, including your own jewelry marketing. You’re overwhelmed and aren’t able to spend the time you need on your sales floor. Not to mention, you’re not really sure what you’re doing — or if the results you’re seeing — are good, bad or otherwise. You’ve started researching agencies and have set up a few appointments to talk to them and hopefully find a match. The thought of putting your company in someone else’s hands is scary but the thought of continuing to do it on your own is even more terrifying. What should you expect and what should be expected of you?
1. Know that marketing your business is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t expect to suddenly be swimming in new customers the moment your new marketing plan starts. Smart business people understand it takes time for consumers to understand what your brand is about, not to mention having those messages seen and heard, and then acted upon. It takes persistence and diligence and patience to steadily get to the front of the pack.
2. Know that you can’t give an agency the car without also handing them the keys, too. There’s nothing worse than being told to “go” on a project only to have the car stall midway through. Everything from a media buy to creative to your all-important budget needs to be approved by you as an owner, or by a marketing coordinator on your end. When you become indecisive, get into analysis paralysis or are simply unavailable to approve the set direction, despite the best efforts being made to reach you, things come to screeching halt.
3. You should know you can’t conduct business as usual with the vendors you’ve worked with in the past. Those print reps want you to advertise in that bridal fair and in that newspaper nobody reads anymore. Their job is to sell that space. An agency’s job is to tell you no, don’t buy it. And your job is to let the agency step in and negotiate the right buys in the right places and for the right reasons. That’s their expertise, and they’re looking out for your business and its success by giving you good guidance.
4. You should know your feedback is required. An agency needs your sales numbers. They want to know anything new that’s going on in your market that could impact business. They need your approval on creative before it can go to the printer. And even though they know you’re busy, they ideally don’t want to have to send out three reminders to get your input. They can only do the best job you’ll allow them to do.
5. You should know you still have to close the sale. Ultimately, jewelry marketing efforts should lead to increased traffic, especially when there is a promotion. But once the door opens, that customer is yours to lose or gain. If they walk out without buying, you need to figure out why. Did they get great assistance from a salesperson? Do you offer the kind of jewelry they’re looking for? Did you tell them everything you can do for them as a jeweler? Listen to your customers and your prospects, too. It can only help your business.
6. You should know you have to pay your bills in a timely fashion. Your local media reps won’t work hard on your behalf when they tell an agency their invoice payment from you is 90 days late. And an ad agency can’t continue to do work for you when you create a bad habit of late payment. It also hurts your reputation.
7. You should know too many cooks spoil the recipe. So yes, an agency wants your feedback, but they don’t need it from all your sales associates, cousin, and best friend, too. Kick anyone not absolutely necessary out of the kitchen.
8. You should know that speaking of friends…you can’t always do what your friends in the business are doing. You can’t magically be just like your friend with the burgeoning bridal business – the one always mentioned in the trades who gets all the awards when you don’t invest in bridal product and market accordingly. It took time for them to get there (see bullet 1). The promotion that worked for them might bomb for you. There are many dynamics that come into play with businesses, including customer demographics, business models and consumer perception of your brand, not to mention your competition. It is not apples to apples, ever.
9. You should know you have to be smart with your money. Quit falling prey to all the offers that are dangled like carrots in front of you. It will most likely hurt rather than help. Ask for your agency’s opinion before you sign up for ANYTHING!
10. You should know you gotta have faith. Trusting an agency with your money and business is a big decision. Again, if you’ve done your due diligence, have asked for referrals, like what you hear, communicate your wishes clearly, and sign the bottom line, you need to sit back and begin trusting. Great results may not happen right away but they will happen with time, great feedback and a solid relationship based on mutual respect.
So, are you ready?