Should You Work with a Marketing or PR Agency, Or Go It Alone? Part II.


Everybody likes to think they’re open-minded. But what if you’re really not?

As I said last time, there’s no point in paying for outside advice if you have no intention of listening to it. But all of us have trouble admitting when we’re being stubborn or dismissive. That’s why, at FiComm, we’ve learned to look for certain telltale clues that suggest an advisor may not be emotionally ready to trust an outside professional.

Whether you’re a vendor or advisor, watch and listen for these statements coming out of an advisor’s mouth. They could express perfectly legitimate sentiments—but they can also signal that the time isn’t ripe for working with an outside agency.

1. “Couldn’t I just hire someone myself?” 
Sure—if your firm is already growing and adding senior business professionals like HR and Operations managers. But usually, this question simply means an advisor wants to put an admin or an intern in charge of social media. Fine. So, how do you plan to train them? Do you have time to train them?  How many hours a week will they actually spend working in this new role? All too often, when advisors ask why they can’t just hire somebody to do the job, what the really mean is, anybody can do the job. No, they can’t.

2. “We tried it before, but it didn’t work.”
The question is, why not? Sometimes, there’s simply an honest mismatch between vendor and client. But in other cases, something deeper is going on. Maybe the firm doesn’t follow proper processes, or likes to shortchange budgets. Perhaps the entrepreneur-owner can’t let go, or no one on the team will commit to a decision. Don’t try to go forward until you figure out what’s holding you back.

3. “You’ll be the biggest item in the marketing budget, so you better show results fast.”
The other version of this warning sign is: “Can’t you do a month-to-month contract?” If you give an agency a short window to prove its value, you’re not giving it enough time to do its job.

Questions about ROI can be tricky. As I said in an earlier post, we absolutely understand why ROI is so important. Still, if you pepper us with questions about it, you’re raising a red flag. If you expect to quantify all the leads and sales that marketing will generate after a single quarter, your expectations are way off. When you first invest in marketing, you’re paying for infrastructure. You have to create a message, build a positive online experience, expand your media and online presence, set up new processes for acquiring leads, start producing content, and on and on. You have to build your foundation first, and then your ROI will come.

4. “We need new clients, so that means we need PR.”
It’s great that advisors are getting more proactive about building their businesses, rather than just relying on referrals. Many think that means doing more PR. But from our perspective, they’re jumping the gun. PR isn’t about lead generation. It’s really about credibility marketing—gaining recognition in the media for subjects you are qualified to speak about. It will boost your brand over time, but it won’t make your phone ring right away. For that, you need to think about other strategies, like digital marketing. There are a lot of tools in the box.

It’s hard to start working with an advisor who’s stuck on a particular tactic. Because it’s often the wrong tactic for their goals.

5. “I don’t need messaging.”
I’ll be honest. I ask advisors, “Who is your target audience, and what is your message to them?” If they won’t give me an answer, I kind of wish I could just politely end the call.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect anybody to recite a perfectly crafted value proposition during the first phone call. Messaging is our job, after all. But if you have no ideas at all on the subject, or worse, insist you don’t need a message, maybe we aren’t the right partner for you. Because everything we do is based on your unique message. It’s the foundation of your marketing. Without it, we have no way to make your voice heard.

At FiComm, we take all these warning signs seriously—along with metrics like turnover, reputation, BrokerCheck data and so on. You should, too. Because they don’t just help us ensure a good fit with our clients. They also signal whether you’re really ready to hire an outside firm—or if you have internal issues you need to tackle first.