Navigating the world of digital marketing is a daunting task for most senior housing operators whose time is already spread thin. Whether you’re looking for a way to increase lead gen or you’re looking for new ways to improve your current marketing plan, partnering with a marketing agency can offer many advantages.
The increase in the number of digital agencies in recent years has made choosing the right one a difficult task. Some agencies focus on name recognition, impressive-sounding awards, and long client lists, while others focus on becoming experts within specific niches and offer personalized service. Some agencies were built back when print collateral was king and have tried to adapt to meet the demands of the web, while others were born in the digital age.
Choosing the right digital partner is crucial to your bottom line. Here are six questions you should ask a marketing agency before you hire it.
1. Who will be managing my account and who do I contact with questions or work to be done?
When you are hiring a marketing agency, you want to know who will be managing your account and executing the work.
Keep in mind, with larger agencies you will usually be assigned a point person — an account assistant or manager. With larger agencies, the account manager can change multiple times during a retainer and feeling like you are starting over can be frustrating.
In contrast, with smaller agencies the agency owner is usually heavily involved in client relations, strategy, and working with the creative team. Response rate to requests can be much higher because of the lighter client load boutique agencies carry.
2. What is your agency’s process for helping me meet my marketing goals?
There is no "one size fits all" approach. While every agency should have systems and processes in place, not every client is the same and the agency you choose should be agile enough to adjust those systems and processes to reflect the goals and your company culture.
“Ideally, the agency you choose as a strategic partner will want to leverage your in-house team, too,” says Michelle Nessman, who combined her sales training and marketing backgrounds to open Elite Business Systems in 2014. “Whether that means dividing and conquering to create a stellar marketing campaign, or teaching in-house champions how to execute based on their core area of responsibilities, the assumption shouldn't be made that only the agency is capable of creating an executing the work. Some of the most successful campaigns we've run were a result of joint effort in developing the strategy, or joint effort in execution. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”
Asking this question also gives you insight into whether the marketing agency is truly dedicated to helping you grow your business, or wishes to make you reliant on outside support to be successful. The agency should understand that your team’s subject matter expertise is a critical piece of the puzzle. Typically, smaller agencies make it their prerogative to partner with their clients to become experts within specific niches.
One key question to ask yourself when comparing agencies is, "are the solutions this agency is offering me based on the goals I have communicated with them?" Were you even given a chance to communicate your goals? If the sales process began and ended with the agency's service offerings, you might want to consider if they have a customer-centric approach to marketing.
3. What methods do you use to make sure our strategy is on track month to month, and how do you share the progress with us?
Agencies are often quick to point out that they know everything from website redesign to SEO, but not all agencies can walk the talk. Asking about an agency’s process starts to give you insights into how they are going to help you come up with a sound marketing strategy.
You also want to know how they measure their progress. For example, it’s great if your website traffic and social media following are increasing. But what you really want to know is if you are generating high-quality leads, closing more sales than before, and occupancy overall is increasing.
Transparency is key. Not all marketing works. If the agency only shares wins and successes with you, they either are not diligently analyzing the data, or not being transparent with you. Period.
"Some campaigns generate excellent results, and others not so much. It's being able to analyze, assess, and then communicate what you learned in order to improve the next campaign. As long as the client has realistic expectations, then seeing some 'red' among all the 'green' data you share will be a normal expectation. Agencies that only share the 'good news' are missing a key opportunity to collaborate."
If you’re looking to hire a marketing agency for your senior living organization, asking these questions — along with evaluating basic criteria such as industry experience, level of expertise, breadth of service offerings, and pricing — will help you find the right partner.