Like most business owners, (marketers or business development professionals) in the hunting, outdoor and firearms you are tasked with a million things a day. Payroll you’ve got to make, the person you have to fire, the new person you have to hire, the server replacement, the sales team meeting at 4, review the new product design project plan plus you got to make the plan for this weekend’s hunt.
When it comes to your branding, marketing or design—your thoughts immediately go into overdrive when you remember that one of your customers commented that your website did not pull up for them on their iPhone (because your company’s home page is not mobile-friendly). You’ve also seen a steady decline in online sales, most likely due to that old 4-step shopping cart you’re running. Your sales team needs new collateral that showcases the new product line and the packaging needs updating, plus you got to get ready for SHOT Show.
But where to start? The designer you used last time missed the mark. The design firm you called doesn’t work with hunting or firearm companies and there is no way you’re using Bob’s son again for the catalog. Choosing a marketing and branding firm can be a daunting and time-consuming process. You need someone you can trust. Someone who is responsive, trustworthy, reliable and knows what they’re doing. The problem is finding those people—the diamond in the rough—someone who meets your expectations and will get the job done right and prove that your investment was worth it.
If you’re looking for a new marketing and branding partner—here are 8 things that will help you choose the agency that solves your toughest business challenges.
1. Start by clearly defining the problem
Simple enough… but not so fast. We often times don’t go far enough to define what the problem actually is. A good marketing and branding agency will get to the heart of your challenges and pain points to help you make the right decisions—not through a hard sell like a haggling car salesman—but someone who truly takes an interest in your business and cares about your success. Is it really just a website redesign or is it really that the website isn’t converting leads. Is it really just a logo redesign, or has the entire organization changed as such that what really is required is brand development. A good hunting and firearms marketing and branding agency will get to the heart of the matter.
2. Set goals
Be specific about your goals. The better your goals are the better the marketing agency will be able to suggest strategies and approaches to solve your problem. Use the SMART goal method to set specific benchmarks that will move your business forward.
3. Do they have a process?
Processes are important because they define a linear way of solving a problem and accomplishing an objective. Most marketing and brand development companies will follow some type of process. Make sure it is clearly defined so you know what to expect as you move forward through the project. The process should be easily found on the agency’s website or be communicated on the initial call.
4. Call up references
Make sure to call on references. In today’s world, everyone is a skeptic. One way to make sure that the firm is ‘mustard,’ is to see if they have a good set of testimonials. Look on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to see if reviews exist. Check their case studies page to see past experiences and how they’ve helped other businesses with similar problems.
5. What are their capabilities?
Today’s best agencies are hybrids. They can offer traditional and digital services to meet your needs and know how outbound and inbound marketing methods fit together to offer you a range of solutions to achieve your goals. They want and desire to earn ‘trusted advisor’ status shedding the horrid ‘vendor’ designation. The most successful agencies desire and thrive on their client’s successes and truly show interest and passion about their service or product.
6. Are they problem solvers?
What is the principal’s experience? Do they have a good track record in the industry and the business acumen required? There are a number of firms out there who lack true experience in solving business problems. Ask for past examples or how they might approach your current branding, marketing or design challenges.
7. Do they practice what they preach?
Does the marketing agency have a strong and identified brand? Do they utilize a business-first approach? Is their style unique? Are they themselves implementing the programs they are suggesting to you? It’s important that they specifically focus in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry—but you may want to consider a firm who also works in other industries so you don’t get ideas that are only generated in an echo chamber. Other industries are far more advanced in marketing and branding tactics than the hunting and firearms category, so knowing how your customers are reacting to other industry tactics and strategies is just as important—because they will expect the same from you.
8. Do you like them as a person?
This goes a long way. 80% of the time your intuition is the best way to choose a marketing and branding agency. If you are compatible as people, you most likely will work well together—assuming everything else adds up. Let’s not forget that business is all about relationships. Pick an agency you like and who you can work with.
In conclusion, a good hunting and firearms marketing and branding agency will know how to get to the heart of the problem, help you set SMART goals, have a clearly defined process, good references and testimonials, a hybrid service offering, are natural problem solvers, practice what they preach, and are people you like.
By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.