6 Steps for Switching Marketing Vendors

In my recent post “The Pain of Switching Marketing Vendors,” I planted the idea in your minds that now is the time to push past the “what ifs” and encouraged you to make a change that you think will improve your marketing department and its efforts. Change can often be uncomfortable, intimidating and hard work. But if you plan for it and prepare for it, it can also be rewarding, gratifying and energizing…and will give you the outcome you’ve been expecting.

The best way to initiate positive change that will deliver the results you’ve been looking for is to start with doing your homework with these six simple steps: 

1) Make a list of pros and cons

Whether it’s your internal marketing team or an outside vendor, mistakes happen. When they do, it’s tempting to go with your knee-jerk reaction and demand an immediate change. Don’t do that. In no way am I saying that you should overlook mistakes or non-compelling work that occurs on a regular basis. What I am saying is that when there is something you are not satisfied with, make a list of pros and cons about the situation. The list should take into account all of the factors involved (timeline, budget, materials, expectations), as well as all of the people involved, including a candid assessment of everyone’s capabilities and capacities.

If after making the list, you decide to continue on your current course then you need to give your team open and honest feedback about the situation. Gauge how they respond to your concerns and tell them how you would like to see them improve. Make the commitment that you will revisit your concerns in a set amount of time (perhaps a month). If you’re still unhappy at that time, it’s time to explore your options. 

2) Review your options

The best way to become more comfortable with the idea of making a change is to identify what your needs are and come up with a list of potential resources to fill those needs. Likely your needs can be filled in a variety of ways. For example, if the issue is that a project is not getting done satisfactorily because you or your team don’t have enough capacity to get it done, then you could hire an agency, a consultant, freelancer or another employee. Find the solution that is right for the need.

The advantage of hiring someone from outside your walls to work with you is that you get a different vantage point of your organization and the industries you serve in. This type of relationship can carry more accountability as well, as an outside vendor is very deadline-driven and budget-conscious. The flip side is that adding an employee or two may cost you less and give additional day-to-day resources on other marketing activities. 

3) Determine the right kind of relationship

Once you’ve decided to make an internal or external investment, it is time to determine who is the right person (or organization) for the job. My belief is you want to find someone who knows about your customers and can quickly understand the products/services you offer. This may mean that you will pay more in hourly rates or salary, but you will also get a lot more bang for your buck right out of the gate. Trust me, it’s worth it — make the investment. 

4) Know what kind of relationship you want from an outside marketing partner

If you’ve decided to hire outside help to fill your need, you need to ask yourself this question: “Do I need a full-service agency or a more specialized vendor?”

While most full-service agencies will likely be willing to do project work, the real advantage of working with a full-service agency is their ability to develop and implement a full-blown marketing effort. If that feels like you’re giving up too much control, then a full-service agency may not be the right fit for you — a small niche shop, consultant or freelancer may be a better choice. You will likely pay less for their services, as well as have more experienced individuals working on your business. And, the overall ownership of your marketing efforts remains with you. 

5) Get recommendations

If you want to know who does good work in your industry, ask. In the construction industry, editors, media reps and your own peers will give you solid advice and recommendations.

Once, you’ve done that, check out those organizations' websites — pay attention to how often these potential partners are updating their information and content. For example, if they aren’t disciplined enough to keep their blogs up-to-date on a regular basis, they may not make updating your content a priority either. The “set it and forget it” mindset is the start of complacency, and that can be a slippery slope if you’re looking for new and/or different results for your efforts.

6) Make a decision

Once you’ve gotten your list whittled down to a handful of options, interview each one: Ask them about their industry experience, any potential competitive conflicts, capacity to take on new business and specific pricing information. Ask for a list of references, and then contact those references. Above all else, do a gut check — make sure you trust them. 

Once you’ve gone through all of these steps, it’s time to make a decision. And, once the decision is made, don’t look back. We often delay making a decision out of fear. Action cures fear. The simple act of making a decision is the last hurdle you need to overcome. If you’re ready for change and/or if you’re ready to achieve results you’ve never had before, don’t delay that last what if