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

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This is a follow-up to my last post about getting ready to meet with an agency.

Why don’t advisors do a better job of preparing for their first agency meeting? One reason is that they don’t know how. They’re smart people, they work hard, and they take the process seriously. But they do work in advisor firms, after all, not in a PR or marketing agency. To them, we represent a foreign country. It isn’t easy to figure out where they should start exploring.

Here’s a checklist. Before you make your first call to an agency, run through every item below. Prepare a solid, defensible answer to each question.  You’ll get more out of the conversation and lay a stronger foundation for a productive future relationship.

Why are you calling an agency? Please don’t say, “My custodian told me to.” Explain what you need in your own words—whether it’s messaging, credibility, lead generation, or some other specific issue.

Have you challenged your firm’s marketing? Do outsiders truly find your website compelling? Are your partners using a jumble of different messages? Is your message resonating with your clients?

How does marketing relate to your business plan? Are you trying to generate leads? Retain assets? Hire more advisors? Develop an exit strategy?

What’s your time horizon? When do you want to achieve your goals? Will marketing get a chance to do its job?

What’s your budget? Having a budget is table stakes for any serious vendor discussion; otherwise it’s a waste of everyone’s time. If you don’t have a marketing budget currently, start by putting every expenditure on paper—from website hosting to client dinners. See what you’re spending, and whether you’re spending it the right way.

What kind of culture fits yours? High-touch service, or do you prefer to be left alone? Are you intellectual, or down to earth? 

What metrics and reporting do you need? Do you simply want to know whether we’re doing our job (through qualitative measures), or do you have specific quantitative goals? Some vendors specialize in one approach or the other.

Do you care if your vendor works in the advisor industry? Some advisors are looking for experience, while others want to experiment.

One last analogy for you:

Imagine you’re building a house, and you’re ready to interview architects and contractors. Wouldn’t you prepare yourself to talk about what you want? Wouldn’t you write up a wish list, adding items like steam ovens and warming drawers and rain showers and infinity pools? Maybe bring pictures of your favorite style, like midcentury modern or California bungalow?

Of course you would. So be just as prepared when you meet with an agency. Be ready to tell them who you are and what you want. Otherwise, you’re likely to look back after a year, disappointed, and say, “Wow. I wish I had been more prepared.”