Where Everybody Knows Your Name

How to find the right marketing partner

When finding the right marketing partner, trust is the key to success. With so many agencies and professionals, a local relationship may give you the most bang for your buck.

Going local

Some businesses, particularly small to midsized companies, may benefit most from outsourcing marketing to a local agency. Ashley Bice is a partner in Rooted Culture, a small, local impact marketing agency in Guntersville, Alabama. She and her team are all from the area, which helps them serve their clients well, she says. 

“There’s no better way to understand a community than to be part of the community,” Bice says. “It’s more authentic in a way that you can’t get from looking at demographic data or analytics. We are rooted here. We have existing relationships in the community, so it’s easy for us to pick up the phone and call someone, as opposed to a national company that doesn’t have those local contacts.”

The success of a good marketing plan largely depends on making connections with customers, she adds. 

“If you want to connect with the community where you’re based, then absolutely working with a local, small business who is ingrained in your community is the best way to go,” Bice says.

Finding the right fit

When exploring agencies, Bice recommends finding a marketing team that:

  1. Fits your business needs and goals. 
  2. Connects every tactic to a larger, holistic strategy for accomplishing the company’s overall goals.
  3. Provides appropriate reporting and analytics.
  4. Has the business leader’s full trust.
  5. Has a local presence.

A case study 

Dan Lenz, vice president of All Seasons Pools & Spas in Orland Park, Illinois, knows firsthand how important a local connection is when it comes to marketing agencies. 

Before the partnership with the national marketing agency LocaliQ, All Seasons used another national agency without a local representative. Lenz says the only contact he had with that company was through an email or phone call. Now, he meets with his LocaliQ rep at least monthly, usually in person. 

“LocaliQ could have all the data and resources and everything in the world, but without him and his team bringing it to me routinely throughout the year, it doesn’t do any good,” Lenz says.

He also appreciates that the agency has team members skilled in different forms of marketing. 

“[Larger firms have] individuals who specialize in those areas specifically so that they don’t miss when a change is coming and they’re ahead of the curve,” he says. 

Lenz finds it easier to trust LocaliQ to keep up with the constant changes in technology, marketing and social media.

“Even if you have an in-house marketing person who is very adept at what they do, I don’t see how they can keep up with the changes that occur so frequently in all the various media online,” he says.

Lenz adds that his LocaliQ representative is “deeply vested in the industry,” further building trust. The rep works with other industry companies and is involved in many industry-specific events, like sponsoring Pool & Hot Tub Alliance events, in which Lenz is also involved.

In-house marketing

If business owners have the time and capacity, Ben Poggemiller, co-owner of Urban Life Pools and Hot Tubs in Manitoba, Canada, encourages them to take a DIY approach to marketing.

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“Most local hot tub dealers can do this themselves, especially if they have a limited budget,” he says. “If you’ve ever sold a hot tub in person before, then you already know the pitch. So, you just have to translate that to an online medium.”

Before Urban Life, Poggemiller ran his own marketing agency. 

“It’s not as hard to do yourself as people might think,” Poggemiller says. “You don’t need to have a computer science degree or be a web designer or anything like that. There are tools that anybody can use and do it themselves.”

Poggemiller cautions that even if a company outsources marketing, it “doesn’t mean it’s going to be completely hands-off.” The company needs to keep an eye on the progress and outcomes of marketing initiatives to make sure they are getting the results they want.

He also says good marketing requires a thorough understanding of the industry market and customer wants and needs. If a company outsources, it’s important the marketing firm has experience in the hot tub or similar industry.

 “A lot of agencies, especially ones that work with multiple types of businesses, never get really good at any one type of industry,” Poggemiller says. “If they’re working with a lot of different types of companies, they might know the principles of marketing, but they may not necessarily know how to sell hot tubs very well.”

The best marketing professionals will understand what questions customers ask and ones they don’t even know to ask, then use that understanding to educate the public. However, that may be difficult when working with an agency.

“You can’t just throw up a stock photo of a hot tub and say, ‘We have hot tubs for sale,’ and call that good enough,” Poggemiller says. “It’s a high-ticket purchase that requires a lot of education. Most people searching for a hot tub have never had one before. It’s up to you to teach them everything they need to know.”

Along with educating customers, authenticity is important in modern marketing, Poggemiller says.

“If I were to outsource, I would be providing that agency with marketing materials because stock images and generic-looking, corporate-looking marketing is not working very well anymore,” he says. “I would be providing that agency with real pictures of my showroom, pictures of my team, pictures of real hot tubs in customer’s backyards.”

Vet and keep going

Ultimately, when deciding who to trust with the company name and reputation through marketing, Lenz encourages businesses to thoroughly vet candidates and ensure the agency or individual always has the company’s best interests in mind.

“Don’t dump all your eggs in one basket,” he says. “And be flexible enough that if you feel you’re not getting the return that you want, you have conversations and you have relatively short timelines before you decide to move on and find someone else.”

Whatever happens, he adds businesses should not eliminate their marketing budget. This is tempting in a market that is starting to see steep declines in business, he says.

Now more than ever, you need to be making sure your brand is out in front of everyone, top of the list and shown in a very prominent and positive way so that the potential of getting business is much higher.”

Dan Lenz, All Seasons Pools & Spas

“Money starts to dry up, things get tough and most people cut their marketing budgets first,” he said. “That’s a huge mistake. Now more than ever, you need to be making sure your brand is out in front of everyone, top of the list and shown in a very prominent and positive way so that the potential of getting business is much higher. Figure out how to make your [overall] budget work around maintaining a marketing budget so you don’t continue on that slippery slope.”