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Business owners and marketers of industrial manufacturing companies often call us because they’re not getting the results or help they need from their current marketing agency.

Before you change marketing agencies, however, we’ve assembled some information, based on the questions we hear, about how you can help your agency improve performance.

1. What is the typical ramp-up time for when I should see results after hiring an agency?

The answer depends upon the objectives and tactics to which you and the agency agreed.

For example, if you hired the agency to improve lead generation, and you’ve agreed to use pay-per-click, you should see results within a month to two months.

If you’re using content marketing to generate leads, you should begin to see results (traffic to the new content + inquiries) within three to four months.

And, it also depends on you. If you’re not giving the agency information or feedback, or if you’re not meeting agreed upon due dates, then this will impact when you see results.

We’ve found that clients who achieve the best results with us put in the time needed to educate us about their products, processes, and customers. The more feedback they give us, the better the results we can provide in a shorter amount of time.

This feedback loop should be ongoing and improve with time.

2. How can we help our agency better understand our services, processes, or technical audience?

We often hear stories of how the agency rep assigned to working with the manufacturer will deliver blog posts or other content that has no bearing on the business. Often, the manufacturer complains the content needs to be completely rewritten — which they then have to take time out of their day to do. So why are they paying the agency?

One solution is education. For example, invite the agency owner and/or team to your facility for a tour. Explain your processes and the products you make. (For example, read this terrific interview of the Plastic Forming Company and their blow-molding process.)

After the tour, have a working lunch in your conference room and answer all the questions the agency team will inevitably have for you.

3. How can I help my agency better understand manufacturing? They seem to be really focused on consumer stuff.

Your agency has to want to learn more, but start with sharing why manufacturing is full of innovation — as well as how vital it is to the local and national economy. (You could start by directing them to your local MEP, Manufacturing USA, or the National Association of Manufacturers.)

Again, invite them for a tour of your facility.

You can also provide the trade publications you read and the industry associations to which you belong so they can do further reading once back in the office.

And lastly, encourage them to attend manufacturing trade shows. For example, our team regularly attends Eastec and IMTS to see the latest technologies as well as meet people. (Read our IMTS 2018 magazine issue for a break down of what we learned.)

4. Our problem is actually a lack of attention. How can we get our agency to respond to our emails or service requests? We’ll ask to have something updated on the website and we either get no response or it takes weeks to make a simple change.

If the information wasn’t stipulated in the contract, ask the agency what their turnaround time is for urgent and non-urgent requests.

When putting in your request, be sure to give a due date of when you need it completed. This will help the agency schedule in your work. (If you say, “No rush” or “whenever,” your request will immediately fall to the bottom of the to-do list.)

For our agency, we attend to urgent matters ASAP. For ongoing work, we turn things around in a week or less (large projects have their own separate milestones and tasks). We strive to answer clients’ messages on the day we receive them.

If your account rep isn’t responsive, call the owner of the agency directly and get things sorted as quickly as possible.

If you still aren’t getting the response you want, stop paying them (yes, even if you have a contract).

5. How can I get our agency to fix their mistakes? For example, we asked them to improve the functionality of our website on mobile devices; however, they did something wrong and now the website looks worse than ever! They say they can’t fix it.

First, determine why the mistake happened and why the agency can’t (or won’t) fix it. You can ask who is on the team and what skills they have.

For the broken website example (which is a true story), we wondered if the agency couldn’t fix it because they lacked a skilled programmer on staff.

To rectify an issue like this, talk to the owner of the agency and ask him or her to find someone who can fix the problem — as well as pay the person’s fee.

6. We’ve tried all these options. How do we go about changing agencies and more important, what should we look for?

Step #1: Before firing your agency, determine the type of help you need. Think in terms of challenges versus a specific tactic — for example, “We need help filling our pipeline” versus, “We think we need help with SEO.”

Step #2: First, start with manufacturers in your network and ask who they work with or recommend. Next, do a search for agencies that specialize in working with manufacturers. Look carefully at their website portfolios. Many will say they work with manufacturers, but they’re more B2B software and B2C focused.

Step #3: Once you have a shortlist of two to three agencies, set appointments and speak to the owner (or salesperson) at each one. Specifically ask, “Our challenge is lead generation. What are some of the ways you can help us solve it?” Don’t be swayed by fancy pitches and PowerPoints and be wary of big promises.

Also, ask the salesperson if you can meet the person you’ll be working with and how communication works with the agency. Many agencies will assign an account rep as your contact person, so it’s nice if you can meet this person before-hand. And, be sure to ask about the account rep’s manufacturing experience.

For our agency, we use Basecamp. All communication between our team and each client is visible, and clients can reach out directly to any one of us with a question.

Step #4: Ask for three references from each agency and then call each one. Ask each reference three questions:

  • “How long did it take for the agency to learn your business? Did they tour your facility? Why or why not?”
  • “Does the agency provide reports that help you close the loop on sales, and if yes, what percentage of new business can you attribute to the agency’s work?”
  • “What content on the website were they responsible for creating, including writing? How much rewriting did you have do?”

Step #5: Make your decision. Caveat: Be sure you’re comparing proposals apples-to-apples. If you’re not sure about something, ask! Have the agency revise the proposal if needed.

7. Ok, we’re now ready to change agencies. We’re actually not in a good place with our current agency, so how do we ensure a smooth transition? They have all our passwords.

First, be sure you have all your passwords stored using a tool such as 1Password. You’ll also want to be sure you have Admin access to Google Analytics and WordPress. Most important, confirm you own your domain and the login to your website host.

Before letting them know of the change, you can remove them from your various accounts; however, in our experience, transitions like this usually go smoothly. All agencies are used to clients moving on — although the good ones work to maintain a years-long relationship.

If you’re in a month-to-month relationship with your existing agency, simply email them to let them know you’re ending the relationship and when. If you’re on a contract, you can still end the relationship but will need to fulfill whatever the contract terms stipulate.

In conclusion . . .

We hope you found this information helpful. Most agencies do great work, as evidenced by manufacturers who are seeing the results.

However, we know finding a good fit with the right agency (and vice-versa, agencies want to work with the right clients) can sometimes be bumpy.

If you’re considering changing agencies, and would like to work with one that fully understands manufacturing and cares about your success, give Huff Industrial Marketing a shout. We’d love to have a conversation to discuss how we can solve your business and marketing challenges.

Dianna Huff is the founder and president of Huff Industrial Marketing. She’s also a passionate advocate for Made in USA and a geeky backyard birder.

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