Lateral Capital Management, LLC

Hiring the Right Marketing/PR Agency

If there’s a trick to hiring the right marketing or PR agency, it’s to treat the selection process as if you were comparing software vendors or equipment suppliers. And if it’s a process, you can probably reduce it to a format everyone can use. What we call a One Page Solution®.

The One Page Marketing Supplier Evaluation form shown below (click and a .pdf will appear which you can download) will make key the right agency much, much easier. It recognizes several “truisms” about this process which have stood the test of time. For example, there are nine criteria for comparing one marketing supplier/agency to another. Be disciplined about using them and you will make a much better decision

You will note that the ratings range from one to four and not one to five. Why? Because this insures that you can’t give anyone an “average” rating for anything! No one you want to work with every day should be average: They are either above or below the midpoint.

As prework, here are some thoughts on how to get the process off on the right foot:

  • Be very clear on what you really need. Key here is the word “need.” For example, Early Stage companies may think they want an advertising agency, when what they really need is someone down the street who can convert a typed-up price sheet into an online “brochure.” Similarly, you may want a custom designed, really cool website when you only need a placeholder website built on a bulk standard, pre-formatted backbone; customized by your cousin. You have to be honest with yourself about the fact that your marketing materials will change dozens of times before you perfect them – or even find the ideal customer/product fit.
  • Be clear on what you can pay.. Most “agencies of record,” in either PR or marketing, look for a $10,000/month retainer to “properly serve” your business – and theirs. You can’t afford that, so find someone who will work by the hour and set a budget with them. If you can only afford to spend $2,000 per month, tell them: “We can’t afford more than ten hours a month at $200.00, so don’t even think about billing us for more.”
  • Be prepared to trade off quality for cost on a project by project basis.. Consider this in the context of logo designs, for example. Using the online service 99 Designs may be the world’s fastest way to get small design projects done. If you are looking for a company logo that has to last you three years, maybe you want to go wild – paying for their “advanced expert designer” tier for $599.00. But if you want a piece of art for a customer presentation, try the lower-cost, lower-skilled designer tier. Your high standards haven’t changed: Only the fit between what each particular marketing project deserves and what you can afford to pay for it at the moment. One price does not fit all.
  • Broadly speaking, PR agencies don’t pay out for Early Stage companies.. Horror stories abound, but they all begin with the same promise: “If you hire me/our firm, we can get a great article on your company placed in [fill in the blank publication].” The blank usually includes the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Broadly speaking, this is just not true and you shouldn’t believe it. If you need PR, ask your Board who they know; about editors or reporters who may take their call and get you a meeting. Or call them yourself. But don’t hire an agency.

Several of our Early Stage companies have worked successfully with a MSP in MSP – a Marketing Services Provider in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Called Spyglass [], they will offer you a “package price” for a logo, development of a Benefit Promise, introductory presentation, etc. Call us if you want an introduction.