Tip #1: Know what you want - A lot of companies go to ad agencies knowing what they don't want. This is a terrible strategy to get results. You're relying on the ad agency to guess what works best for your business. You're also going to waste plenty of time shooting down the ad ideas the agency will give you. This will tire the ad agency out very quickly. It's also a very negative first step in working with an advertising company.
Tip #2: Don't assume you have the right answer - Sometimes your company will automatically think it has the right answer for advertising. So why are you going to an ad agency then? You should know what you want out of advertising, but don't expect the ad company you're working with to follow a strict set of guidelines you put forth. Remember, you're going to a professional ad agency - a company that specializes in marketing businesses. Use their expertise; don't destroy it by thinking you have all the answers.
Tip #3: Realize that there's a strategy behind advertising - Some companies look at ads and think, "That looks pretty. That's the ad for me!" No, it's not. If it is the ad for you, it's because the thought and strategy behind the ad make it the correct choice - not the prettiness factor. There are many strategies to constructing ads: the way a human-being's eyes move over copy, how different text format improves readership, and how word grouping around photos makes a certain impression on readers. So if you're ad agency is talking strategy, listen up!
Tip #4: Don't let loved ones make business decisions - If you're the owner of a small business, you probably like to bounce ideas off of family or close friends. But when it comes to advertising, everyone has a different opinion. You know your company best. Your marketing manager knows your marketing best. The people who know the problem best should be making the decisions.
Tip #5: Have one decision maker - This is related to the last tip, but is still very important. An advertising idea appeals to different people in different ways. If you have more than one decision maker, disagreements will occur and the ad agency will get discouraged working with you. Having one decision maker speeds the process and just makes everything easier.
Tip #6: Don't assume you know your customers - If you have never done market research as a company, then chances are you don't know your customers very well. You know how you do business with them, but you don't know their problem solving processes or even their motivations for buying your product or service. The bottom line is: if your ad agency needs to do market research, let them! Even though you're paying out more for you advertising, you'll get better results and have a better understanding of your customer for the future.
Tip #7: Something is NOT better than nothing - A lot of businesses see marketing as a necessary nuisance. "The competition is running a large ad campaign so we have to keep up!" Sometimes it's just that a business hasn't run a campaign in a while and they just feel like they need another one. Advertising should not be done on a whim. In fact, it is something that should be ongoing if you have the resources. However, if you do not see a current problem that advertising can solve, then there's no need for it! You'll spend your money and get poor results from unnecessary ads.
Tip #8: Value is more important than price - Having a short term view of your ROI can be damaging to your business. If you're looking for the cheapest ad agency, then you're looking for worthless advertising. Do your research though! Some ad agencies like to hop on the "value bandwagon" and charge a high price for that same worthless advertising. Don't go for the most expensive, but certainly don't go for the least expensive.
Tip #9: Proofread everything your ad agency gives you - Your business has lots to do. When an ad agency sends copy over to you, you might just ignore it thinking that it's already correct. It's the ad agencies job to make sure grammar and sentence structure is perfect, right? But it's your ad and you need to be on board with it. Once it runs, you can only pull it after it goes out. Don't ignore the proofreading step - it's your opportunity to make sure the copy is to your liking.
Top #10: Don't pull out of advertising when sales are down - There are two contradictory philosophies out there: "Sales are down, we have to cut expenses" and "You have to spend money to make money." So when sales are down, which is the correct philosophy? Just remember that advertising is an investment. Having that short term outlook of ROI is not good. Sales are down now, but did it have anything to do with your ads? If it did, then and only then should you cut your advertising expenses. Broad cost cuts will only hurt the positive results your advertising is achieving.
Tip #11: Have your ad agency work WITH you, not for you - In any business relationship, the flow of information is critical. You can't just throw money at your ad agency and expect results. Remember that this is most likely the first time that they have ever come into contact with your business. They don't know you and, therefore, can't advertise your business or its products well yet. You provide them information and they'll provide the results. The more you work with your ad agency, the better the ads will be.
About the Author
Heather Loftiss is President of Water Design Studio (" http://www.waterdesignstudio.com "), a Houston based advertising agency. She also publishes The Customer Connection ("http://www.morerepeatsales.com") online newsletter.