Let’s imagine a scenario: you have a small business that you live and breathe for. Every day, you give your everything for the business and while it’s doing okay, it’s not quite performing in the way you’d like. So, you go looking for someone that offers marketing consulting services. You find a brand marketing company – and like Cinderella and her glass slipper – you think you may have found the perfect fit. The solution that will build a kick-ass, small business marketing strategy, solve your challenges, eradicate any inefficiencies, and help your company to achieve its proper potential.
But then reality starts to assert itself: even with a decent brief, your agency delivers you a piece of work that is so wrong, so not what you wanted, that it leaves you reeling. How did this come to pass? How could your perfect agency not have understood what you wanted?
The reality is that no matter how perfect an agency, the people in it are not mind readers. Your expectations of the creative, the strategy, and the content cannot be assumed to be understood by your agency; they have to be explicitly communicated. Which brings me to the point of this blog: marketing guidelines are the not-so-secret sauce of a successful relationship between you and your brand marketing company.
Let’s face it, any agency worth its salt can deliver a large number of services for its clients. But how does the agency ensure those deliverables are in line with client expectations? Marketing guidelines are the rules of engagement between an agency and client that provide crystal clarity on how the business owner wants the agency to deliver its marketing consulting services. And they can be the difference between your small business marketing strategy being successful or not.
Benefits of small business marketing guidelines for the client
It might sound basic to create something that both parties can work to, but believe me, you will save yourself headaches in the future. Marketing guidelines should be reasonably comprehensive if you’re going to get the most out of them: including, but not limited to frameworks for content, style, brand, tone of voice, and social, as well as the nuts and bolts of any project such as setting objectives, milestones, delivery dates, approvals, and budgets. If you create an agreed-upon set of rules, you will achieve several benefits:
- By working through expectations and deliverables on both sides, you’ll likely find communication, content, and strategic elements coming to the surface that you hadn’t previously considered.
- You can hold the agency accountable for work delivered and budget spent. If something goes wrong, you can use the guidelines to check back to where things started to go off base, and work from there.
- The review and revise process should be hugely reduced, saving time, money, and stress!
Benefits of small business marketing guidelines for the agency
The advantages to the client above also work to the benefit of the agency. Nothing says “repeat business” quicker than a happy client, and marketing guidelines do help to maintain a good relationship with the client, inform clear communication paths, and ultimately, a better marketing outcome.
Specifically, the top benefits that I see as an agency owner are:
- Guidelines provide a clear, consistent path toward success. If something is written down and agreed upon by both sides, we can check any areas of confusion or inconsistency at the outset, ensuring that we’re all singing from the same song sheet.
- If I have a new team member to get up to speed on a client or project, marketing guidelines make that process quick and easy.
- At Take the Stairs, we enjoy team brainstorms to make sure we get the most creative and relevant outputs for clients. Marketing guidelines help us to stay on track and know that what we’re going to put forward is in line with expectations.
- And if we do #3 right, then our internal hours spent on making revisions based on client feedback are heavily reduced.
Marketing guidelines really are win-win, which is why we insist on them being included as a mandatory element of all our marketing packages for small businesses.
We use marketing guidelines in all our builder packages
- Identity Builder
For this package, we build guidelines that include information on your logo, your style, your business “why”, and your buyer personas. It’s critical that we are consistent when we work on your company’s identity, as this is the essence of who you are, and importantly, who your customers are.
- Content Builder
Content is key and never more so than in a digital world. Content allows you to showcase your expertise and knowledge, and helps you to build relationships with potential and existing customers. Content guidelines help to steer keyword selection, and ensure that you push the right content to the right audience through the right channel.
- Social Builder
We live in a world where, if you blink, you might have missed something. Social is an increasingly important element for businesses that need to talk to customers in their language, and on a platform that suits the customers, rather than the vendor. Our guidelines will establish your strategy, images, banners, and templates, positioning your business to have a relevant voice in a noisy world.
- Ad Builder
Advertising and paid media are a huge part of any digital marketing campaign that hopes to reach the right people. Targeted ads can be highly successful at engaging with the people that want to hear your sales messages. Marketing guidelines will develop ad treatments for each of your buyer personas, helping you to hone in on the right channel and message for each.
- Brand Builder
This marketing package brings together the outputs from all the packages above to provide a comprehensive set of marketing guidelines.
Everyone wins with a strong, small business marketing strategy
If you choose a marketing agency to help your business with the new customers, growth, and success that you hope for, marketing guidelines are an absolute must. As I described above, there are really only upsides to having them in place: as the business owner, you are in charge of how you would like the agency to operate on your behalf. From the agency’s perspective, there is a greater likelihood of delighting the client, delivering on-time, and in-budget if expectations of the deliverables are understood from the outset.
Marketing guidelines are a win-win, in my opinion. This is why Take the Stairs doesn’t operate without them. Find out more from our website and why not book a discovery meeting with one of our consultants? It’s free, with no-obligation, and provides you with an action plan whether you decide to work with us or not.