In an economy with tight budgets, biased media outlets, and even-more-biased sales reps, who is the small business owner to trust with their advertising? Your advertising agency is the ONLY company with your best interests in mind.
So there I was, feet up on my desk, with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a computer mouse in the other. I was just finishing up some work for a client when I received an unexpected call from a colleague. This call would end up reminding me about a topic I’ve been ranting about for years, and stir up my emotions enough to inspire me to write this article. Now during the start-up phase of my company I was forced to wear many hats. In addition to being the entrepreneur/advertising strategist/graphic and web designer, I was also my own business planner, accountant, bookkeeper, attorney, salesperson, customer service rep, etc. I’m sure you can relate. The point is, I’ve never considered myself a writer until a few weeks ago. But, some things just need to be said—because they need to be heard. And, I just happen to be the type of person to tell it like it is.
So, let’s get to it. This colleague had been in the advertising industry doing sales for some time and currently works for a magazine company as a sales rep. I recently got in touch with him because I’ve been looking for knowledgeable marketing reps to work independently in their own time finding leads for my advertising agency. He would only need to be a fronter, (as opposed to a deal-closer) and find business owners who could benefit from our services and just be open to discussion. He wouldn’t need to be super aggressive, just find out what they were interested in and submit to me a brief, one-page form. We would then follow up with the prospective client and he would receive a commission bonus if the ongoing conversations resulted in a sale. For an experienced marketing rep, the job would be quite easy ESPECIALLY if they already had a long list of clients with whom they already have a good business relationship with.
In order to bring home my point I have to mention that my agency offers a wide variety of services including corporate identity, print advertising, media placement, web design, internet advertising, strategic marketing, budget allocation, and advertising analysis. This isn’t meant to be a blatant advertisement, just to point out the fact that we cover just about every print and internet related advertising method that a small business owner would need to consider utilizing in order for their advertising to be successful.
So, as I mentioned, my colleague now works for a magazine company. That’s ALL he does—get one specific type of client to advertise in THAT specific magazine. And while he had faith in my company, I wanted to ensure him that I didn’t want to risk jeopardizing his relationship with any of his current clients so I made it clear to him that we would make sure that they knew that we were two separate companies, and that he was just recommending us for services his magazine didn’t provide that he knew they could definitely benefit from. After all, that’s why he contacted them to advertise in the magazine in the first place.. Because he believes that advertising in the magazine will help their company see positive results.. He does have his client’s best interests in mind, right?
We discussed the fact that my agency also does magazine ad design and handles account setup and ad placement. (Little know fact—the magazine would pay for that—not the client—it’s called media placement) and IF we felt, after a thorough-analysis of our client’s budget and needs, that our client would get the most bang-for-their-buck by advertising in that magazine then we would recommend that route to them anyways. Bottom line, we want what will help our clients the most. So we’re on the same page, right?
Then he gave me his answer. He told me that it was in HIS best interest, and HIS family’s that he provides for, for his clients to spend as much of their money advertising in the magazine as possible. He continued to tell me that by spending some of their marketing budget on other advertising services, that would leave less money they could spend with the magazine where he earns his commissioned paycheck.
Okay, wait, something’s not right about that. First off, I should say that I fully understand on a personal level that you have to provide for your family and yourself first, BUT OK, THEN who is looking out for the small business owners interests? I mean really, what if dumping 100% of their marketing budget into one magazine isn’t the most cost-effective or results-effective advertising solution for their company? I can already guarantee it is not. And this isn’t unique to just magazine companies either—it’s ALL media providers! Think about it, newspapers want to you to spend all your money with them, websites with internet advertising, local newsletters, Value Pak, and so on. It’s that sales reps job to convince you that their media the best place for you to advertise, and their incentive is their commission. In today’s economy, your rep may even push you further because they’re worried about losing their jobs as well. I’m not against salespeople, it’s their job to do that, and it’s an important and necessary job for them to communicate and sell the benefits of the media they represent. My point is that the business owner needs to recognize this bias and understand that these media reps are not entirely (or even in a position where they are even capable of) working towards their best interests.
A good advertising agency will be able to provide a diverse amount of services to you, this way you can rest assured that the advertising options are being presented and recommended for you because the agency feels your advertising program will get optimal results from them, and not just because it’s the only thing they offer. Additionally the purpose of an advertising agency is to make sure you have a company representing you properly with your best interests in mind. You wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, so why put thousands of dollars a year into unguided advertising without an unbiased professional’s help to steer you in the right direction and make sure you’re not wasting your money and you’re seeing positive results?
You can still choose to advertise in certain media, but it just makes sense to let your agency know what you’re interested in and have them analyze the demographics, distribution, competition, alternatives, etc. and provide you with an educated reason for why they think you should or shouldn’t advertise there. Let those media sales reps sell themselves to the agency, not you. By filtering your advertising through your agency you will also reap the rewards of not having your ads be designed by the entry-level designers that work for the media provider. Sure, the cost of ad design is often included in your ad placement price, but these designers are designing the same ads day-in and day-out — even for all of your competitors! This will create a simplistic redundancy in the design because there’s no real creative direction or incentive to have one company’s ad be more effective or successful than the next. Does that not defeat the purpose of advertising in the first place?
Let an advertising agency develop your advertising program and design a strategic and effective advertising campaign for you, because they have YOUR and ONLY YOUR best interests in mind.