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Check out the Engenius Podcast on this topic.

I work on the Accounts Team with some wonderful teammates who care deeply about our clients and our future partners. At Engenius, we want you to find the best digital marketing and web design solution for your business, whether that’s working with a freelancer or working with an agency like ours. 

My teammates and I have taken hundreds of calls walking people, and groups, through the big picture questions that come with any marketing initiative and the smaller, project-specific questions that come with digital marketing efforts. As we’ve talked to various groups, we’ve realized that certain calls feel more productive and more streamlined than others. 

What made these calls different? Well, many of those organizations came into the conversation having thought about the topics and questions below. 

SO — in the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are the 12 things that will help you get the most out of your agency experience. 

1. Define Your Company Goals for This Year and Next

Your company is like a ship — it has to be pointed towards a set of coordinates to sail smoothly. In other words, your company goals matter in your marketing strategy. Are you trying to grow revenue? Increase leads? Grow the size of your team? Do all these things? Your company goals dictate allocation of your budget, the prioritization of that budget, and the best initiatives for your investment. 

Knowing your overall company goals will help you define how any new marketing initiative fits into the overall success of your organization. 

2. Understand how your sales funnel operates (or how much time you have to do what you need to do) 

If you don’t know already, your sales funnel and/or sales cycle is defined as the time it takes a new lead to indicate interest, qualify, and close. For some companies, this might take a few weeks; for others, it might take a few months. Your sales cycle might have dry seasons, when very few leads are coming in, or it might have busy seasons when there are so many leads that your team feels overwhelmed. Knowing the pattern of your sales cycle is key in selecting the right marketing initiative. 

With any marketing effort, there’s going to be setup time and an expected waiting period before you see results. (We’ve said it once and we will say it again: good marketing takes time). Knowing your sales cycle allows you to strategically plan your marketing efforts to avoid the next lead drought or bolster other initiatives within the pattern that your company expects. 

3. Know a general idea of what your company is planning to allocate to marketing efforts. 

This statement can also be rephrased to this: how much can you realistically invest in growing your business? That number should technically include both your sales budget and your marketing budget. We don’t need to know all of that, but we do need to know what you’re planning to use for marketing. Knowing those numbers helps us make sure you use your budget as wisely as possible. 

To be clear — we don’t need you to know an EXACT dollar amount that you would like to invest, but knowing how your company’s marketing budget works (and how that marketing budget fits into the overall picture) is a great place to start! 

4. Know your company’s general marketing history 

Your marketing history is important. What has worked for your company in the past? More importantly, what hasn’t worked for you in the past? Why is that? Did you do a “post-mortem” on old marketing initiatives to see why things were successful or why they weren’t? 

The more you know about your company — the more insight you can give us on how to tailor something exactly for you! 

5. Identify who your target audience is 

This is a back-to-the-basics request. It’s common sense, but easy to forget. Your marketing initiatives need to connect to your specific audience in order to be successful. So — who is your target audience? Contractors? Nonprofit donors? Online shoppers? Pet-adopters?

Personalized marketing is key in the modern digital age. (More on that coming in our 2022 Digital Marketing Trends document). Knowing who you’re targeting your marketing campaigns to allows you to be specific, personable, and worthy of remembrance. Before calling in to a marketing agency, figure out who your audience is, what appeals to them, and what their pain points are. 

Bonus tip: know how your product or service speaks to that pain point.  

6. Identify how you get leads

The more you know about your leads, the more you can market to them. How does your target audience find you? Google Search? SEO? Word of Mouth? Referrals?

What is your percentage of new customers or returning customers? Are returning customers driving referrals? Knowing the answers to these questions helps us refine a potential marketing strategy for your business. 

7. Know your branding and have a few brand guidelines

This is a big one. Before hopping on a call, you should have an idea of your “brand.” This doesn’t mean you need to have a comprehensive understanding of everything branding entails, but having a few colors you like, a font that you consistently use, and a defined logo are key to any successful partnership with a marketing agency. 

Consider branding the “rule book” for your site. Branding helps our team know the boundaries for their creativity. Having a site that accurately reflects your real-life company’s colors and personality is crucial in building customer trust. Plus, no one wants a site that clashes with their company’s primary logo colors! 

Pro-tip: If you’re in the middle of a brand change, it’s ok to start the conversation with a web-design agency… but be prepared to wait on that project kick-off meeting until your branding initiative is complete. 

Need help defining your brand? Check out this helpful DIY branding article from our friends at Shopify. 

8. Define what you need your site to do

Your site is a tool for your team. It should make life easier for you and for your clients. What are the things you NEED your site to do? What are the things you WANT your site to do? Coming into a phone call with your website must-haves is helpful for a web design team. No, you don’t have to know every single specific functionality — but letting us know that you want order processing and/or event scheduling is incredibly helpful when we scope the timeline and budget requirements of a project. 

Need help explaining site functionality? Below are some examples:

  • Event Scheduling
  • Form fills (ex: interested in services) 
  • E-commerce purchasing
  • Map/multiple locations display
  • Live chat
  • Integration with internal software (like a CRM or client portal) 

9. Figure out your general design preferences 

This should be one of the best parts of the process. Take a look at other sites in your industry. (Competitors are a great place to start). What do you like? What don’t you like? 

Make notes about what you observe and what you think fits your company. You may not *technically* need that on the first phone call, but being prepared for the future project is never a bad thing. 

10. Find out some general information about your current site 

You may not know one line of code from another, but it’s very helpful to have a general idea of things like what platform your current site is built on or how old your site is. Why? It lets us know what you’re familiar with and what things might have improved or changed since your last site was built. 

11. Know who will be on the project from an internal perspective 

We run into this scenario a lot: a marketing director gathers all of the information and begins to talk about kick-off dates and project deliverables…but then can’t get time with the internal key decision-maker. Inevitably, the project stalls or goes on hold. 

Knowing who the key players are before you kick off the project can help you get ahead of scheduling issues internally. It’s also helpful for an agency to know that your project might take a little longer, and that’s ok!

12. Recognize that quality takes time

 If you’re contacting an agency, that means that your company is already looking for something more than a standard website builder. Work from an agency takes time because true quality can’t be completed overnight. If you want a great product, you need to be prepared to wait a little bit longer and let the experts do their thing. As the saying goes: good things come to those who wait. 

13. Have a partnership perspective 

I know, I know! The 12 days of Christmas song doesn’t have a bonus 13th…but there’s one more thing we wish every phone call had: a partnership perspective. 

We’re an agency committed to our clients. Bring your questions! Bring your thoughts! We’re in it for the long haul and we want to help your organization thrive in the digital world just like you thrive in the real one. We’re always just a phone call or email away. 

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