I spent nearly two decades as a marketing director in nationally ranked A/E/C firms. During this tenure, I had the opportunity to hire several advertising agencies and marketing consultants. I felt fortunate to have found trusted partners to lend their strategic and creative prowess to the cause.
Upon joining my last firm however, I inherited several invoices from a so-called marketing agency that provided no detail about the nature of the services provided, the hourly rates charged, nor the deliverables for which the invoice had even been submitted. These invoices totaled several thousand dollars. Now I’m no CPA, but I do audit my personal bills, business invoices, and most certainly my bar tabs.
I contacted the sender of said invoices to obtain an explanation of the charges. I was told simply, “It’s for the website stuff.”
Really? Website stuff? Sounds pretty strategic and mission critical, eh? Can you imagine sending your client an invoice for “design engineering stuff” with no detail whatsoever?
Needless to say, I promptly terminated the prevailing arrangement with this provider, but not before obtaining all assets created on the company’s behalf. I then set about to retain another agency to assist with “website stuff” — albeit with a strategic vision, clear scope, schedule, budget, and clearly delineated deliverables in hand.
My first question to prospective marketing partners: “How do you bill your clients?”
If the answer was something akin to the Keebler Magic formula that the provider described above had given, the interview ended and I moved on to other qualified candidates. My next line of inquiry: project management. If scope, schedule, and budget weren’t central to the response, the agency was disqualified from further consideration.
Here’s the thing: Marketing is essentially the architecture and engineering of your brand and its position in the marketplace. In the A/E/C world, we strategically select sites for buildings and roads. In the marketing world, we strategically select audiences and channels to position our brand and share our message. Whether designing a building or a marketing campaign, a thoughtful and strategic plan and design are foundational. Delivering solutions with measurable results to clients is the goal — in architecture, engineering and marketing.
Marketing isn’t Keebler Magic. Don’t let your marketing agency fool you into thinking (and paying) otherwise. If they do (or don’t do) a bunch of stuff and send you an invoice with a lump sum due post haste, run! Just as in architecture and engineering, marketing is first and foremost about the client’s goals. It’s about strategy. And creativity. And results. Measurable, trackable results. The billings should reflect the strategy and what specifically was created and delivered. You should then be able to measure and track the results of said investment. Just like Keebler Magic, only better.
Maggie Fitzgerald is the Chief Strategist at Mpowered Marketing, an A/E/C-focused marketing boutique. She’s an opinionated writer, mediocre photographer, rescuer of dogs and old houses, dedicated do-gooder, and a passionate digger of both earthly and digital dirt. You can find her in the digital dirt on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
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