How To Avoid Hiring the Wrong Marketing Freelancer or Digital Agency

by Blackwood Impact Group

Small to medium-sized businesses are sometimes challenged when they need to expand their marketing and branding efforts. When your company doesn’t have experts on staff, or if your in-house team is overloaded with other projects, your options for moving your business objectives forward is to either hire an outside agency or freelancers.

Many business leaders are aware of the impact that a significant brand presence can have on their company’s bottom line. They may be familiar with the fact that items like a logo, web design, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, and social media marketing all play essential roles.  However, unless you have a background in marketing, it can be tough to assess what exactly you will be getting when you bring on external team members to handle projects in these areas.

Too often, small business owners find themselves several months into a contract before they realize their needs are not being sufficiently met. You know your freelancer or agency is working on your behalf. It’s evidenced by the invoices and reports with data you don’t understand which they hand you as proof of their work. Misunderstandings and lost productivity time happens when business owners don’t know enough about marketing to ensure they are getting the results they need.

Here at Blackwood Impact Group (BIG), we don’t want you to be an uninformed buyer of freelancer or agency services. So in this article, we will give you a few areas to examine, some pitfalls to avoid, and recommendations that can improve your relationship with your agency or freelancer.

The Wrong Decisions Are Costly

Small business owners sometimes hire a freelancer to help them with website design, or a logo re-design.  But in actuality, the website might need more than an aesthetic overhaul; specific functions may need to be added. Before the logo is redesigned, a target market may need to be identified first so that the new design will be appealing to the right prospects. In short, a thorough marketing strategy needs to be in place before you can adequately identify who you should hire and determine what you need them to do for you.

If you don’t have an internal marketing team, it is highly likely you don’t have a defined marketing strategy. So your first investment of time and money should be in a consultant who will help create your comprehensive marketing plan. When you have a firm marketing and branding strategy in place, you tend to make better hires. As a result, they will produce more useful results for your business.

Without knowing where your business is headed, it is easy to waste time and money hiring the wrong service providers or paying for ineffective products that don’t meet your objectives. Let’s say you had your logo redesigned.  Off-target colors and imagery in a logo won’t attract your desired prospects or galvanize your current customer base. Once you realize your errors because you are now aware of your actual target audience, you will have to have everything redesigned and/or reprinted. Now you’ve paid for the same service twice.

We’ve seen this happen a lot with website redesigns. Without a strategy, a website can have a great look. But not having the right functionality on your website (i.e., no lead capture system, clunky eCommerce process, or critical information is confusing for customers to find on your site) can have a direct impact on your revenue. Rebuilding a website is costly and you are losing out on potential new clients with a sub-optimal website while your new one is being rebuilt. When you put your marketing plan in place before making hires, the process is typically more cost-effective.

Why You Should Start With A Marketing And Branding Strategy

Having your overall marketing and branding strategy in place first helps your business in a variety of ways. As mentioned above, it is more cost-effective. If you are planning on hiring freelancers for one-off services such as logo design or website redesign, know that they are experts at the specific skill or service they provide. They may or may not be marketing strategists. They may not have a strong understanding of your business to make recommendations that are appropriate for you. If you do not relay your strategy and objectives to them at the outset of the project, they will use their best interpretation of the information you do provide to try and help you. What they produce may hit or it may miss.

When you are able to communicate to your freelancer or agency precisely what you need and why,  you empower them to create a logo, website, ads, social media posts, and more that help you meet your objectives.  Even giving your external team details such as knowing who your competitors are and why you are different can help them.

Being prepared with your strategy helps you to be ready for positive campaign results. You should be sure you understand your company’s sales and operational capabilities. For example, If you are hiring SEO services, you should have a plan in place to handle a massive influx of leads. Having a “strategy first” approach ensures positive experiences with your service providers.

Avoid Being In A Rush

Many business owners seek out services when they’ve come to a critical point of need. They might have a significant opportunity pending and need marketing or branding elements in place as soon as possible. Or maybe previous attempts at rebranding, redesign, or other PPC campaigns have not yielded the desired results. Now they are in a panic to recoup losses.

When you are in a rush, you are prone to making the wrong decisions. In a rushed mindset, you might breeze through the vetting process. You might not have a full understanding of what you genuinely need and wind up asking misguided questions or asking for the wrong services. You may neglect to communicate effectively and, as a result,  you could receive a “cookie-cutter” solution (i.e., your website looks like the last 10 law firm websites this designer completed) while your unique needs remain unmet. As your campaigns continue on, you could be receiving the wrong kinds of leads, or not enough leads because the strategy wasn’t correct in the first place.

In the end, rushing will cost you more because you’ll have to do things over. The best way to avoid rushing is by taking the time to invest in developing your marketing strategy from the outset. You will learn a lot about your business in the process.  You may discover an even better direction for you to go in. You may realize you need to offer different products or services or enter a new market. When you slow down and do research before you change or implement a new brand or launch a new campaign, you will also have better results with the freelancer or agency you chose to work with.

Find A Consultant To Help You

As consultants, Blackwood Impact Group’s mission is to be a trusted partner to our clients and fill in any marketing knowledge gaps they might have. We recommend that every small business have a versatile consultant they can bounce ideas off of, especially if they do not have an internal marketing team. The ideal consulting partner should also be able to create your marketing and branding strategy so that you can hire your additional freelancers and agencies with confidence.

If you are in the process of considering who your trusted consultant should be, we hope you’ll give us and our Agency Relationship Management service a look. It’s designed with small business owners in mind who don’t have a marketing leader.  But we also work well with companies that may have a small, but overwhelmed in-house team. Here is how we can help you.

  • Marketing Assessment: BIG will analyze your current marketing and branding assets and determine what, if anything, needs to be changed. More importantly, we’ll share with you why.
  • Marketing & Sales Strategy: BIG will develop your marketing strategy and sales strategy. It will be based on extensive marketing research we’ll conduct. During this process, we’ll uncover precisely what you need to meet your goals.
  • Agency Evaluation: If you are already working with a freelancer or an agency, we’ll help you determine if they are the right fit to help you accomplish your goals. We’ll review your contracts on your behalf and make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for. We’ll also act on your behalf to clarify any miscommunications.
  • Agency Selection: If your current provider doesn’t make the cut or you are not currently working with anyone, we’ll help you find the right partners to work with. We’ll help you interview potential freelancers and firms and give you our recommendations. Once you have made your choice, we’ll ensure the scope of work represented in your contract is correct.
  • Account Manager: BIG remains with you through the process of having your marketing collateral or campaigns worked on. We will serve as a liaison between you and your external team to ensure work is in alignment with your business and revenue goals. We communicate your wishes to the service provider and ultimately reduce frustration on both sides of the relationship.

Having your marketing and branding in place before you hire your next digital marketing agency, design firm, PR, advertising, or freelancer is critical to the success of your business’s marketing objectives. The right consultant can smooth your relationships with service providers and ensure the best results for your campaigns. If you are interested in having Blackwood Impact Group potentially fill this role for you, contact us today for a no-obligation consultation. Even if we don’t wind up being the best fit for you, we hope you’ve found this article helpful in helping you avoid hiring the wrong service providers.