“We’re Happy With Our Marketing Firm”

By Jim Walton

Recently, I saw an episode of Mad Men where Don Draper was meeting with a representative of Dow Chemical Company, who said they were happy with their advertising agency. Having been in the advertising and marketing industry my entire career, I’ve certainly heard those words more than a few times. The challenge, as I see it, is to understand just how the client defines “happy.” Here’s how the Mad Men dialog went:

Client: We’re at 50% market share in almost everything we make.

Don: Because you have a big line of diverse and charismatic products. And you keep making more. And why do you do that? Because even though success is a reality, its effects are temporary. You get hungry even though you’ve just eaten. At [my] old firm, we had London Fog raincoats. We had a year where we sold 81% of the raincoats in the United States. But we didn’t stop working for them because 81% isn’t enough.

Client: But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re happy with our agency.

Don: Are you? You’re happy with 50%? You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful, for now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50% of anything. I want 100%. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it, you want all of it. And I won’t stop until you get all of it.

I loved Drapers bold, brash demeanor and the way he rattled off fiery questions that forced the client to do a bit of self-evaluation. Of course, most people would never push a client that way, but a bit of self-evaluation may be a great thing.

Are you really happy with your marketing firm?
In order to define happiness, maybe it’s important to understand just what your expectations are. If all you need is a graphic artist who can create a visually attractive flyer, then maybe that’s adequate; however, what we’ve found is that what economic developers really want is to successfully grow their community brand, generating leads and awareness in highly defined target industries. They want opportunities to grow jobs and investment that will fuel their local economy.

A great marketing firm is one that offers a deep understanding of your industry and your target audiences. So, if Draper were face-to-face with an economic developer, he might ask something like, “How effective is your marketing effort at growing your community awareness among site consultants working in your target industries?” He might also say something like, “How are you measuring your marketing success? Are you using the old-fashioned approach and counting phone calls? How’s that working for you?”

Is your current marketing firm a vendor or a partner?
At Brand Acceleration, we are passionately involved in the economic development industry, working each day to better understand the needs, desires, and expectations of the above-mentioned audiences. What do the like? What do they dislike? What causes them to respond? What makes them yawn? Our goal is to understand them so well that we become a strong partner to our client communities. In his conversation with a client, Draper might ask, “How well does your agency know corporate real estate executives or site consultants?” Or maybe something like, “How deep is their range of counsel?”

Seat of pants marketing
For a number of years, I worked in the media industry. From print advertising to radio, television, and events, I learned how to sell advertisers on the many benefits of buying whatever I was selling. If I had a special deal, I encouraged advertisers to jump in and take advantage of the offer while it was still available. It might be a special editorial edition, a remnant space offer, a trade show or conference offer, etc. As a sales person, I used these offers to grow sales and boost my commission.

This is not the best way to make decisions. Instead, the better approach is to develop a twelve-to-eighteen-month strategic plan that includes well-thought-out media decisions, as well as other tactics, such as trade show and conference involvement, mission trips, email marketing, online advertising, video production, social media marketing, and other important tools. Seat of pants marketing is usually random, convoluted, expensive, and ineffective. Does this mean that you should never respond to random opportunities? Of course not, but it does mean that when you do respond, you do so based on how the opportunity fits into your overall marketing plan.

Does the idea of a strategic, structured marketing plan, produced by professional economic development marketers, appeal to you? If so, we should talk. We’ll work with you to develop a marketing strategy and to set measurable goals that result in effective use of your limited budget. We’ll start with a thorough review of your community messaging and your economic development website. After that, we’ll explore ways to grow awareness, effectively tell your story, and positioning your community for success.

In the words of Don Draper, “You don’t want most of it, you want all of it.” At Brand Acceleration, we won’t stop until you get all of it.

Have a wonderful and successful week,


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