You don’t need a high advertising budget to hire an agency. Some specialize in small businesses. They may be able to group-buy space or time for several companies in the same medium. If you’readvertising on a regular basis, it’s probably taking a lot of your time or one of your staff member’s time to talk to salespeople from all the media and publications. A good agency can take some of that burden, as well as offer suggestions on ad copy and new media sources. They may also be able to get you last-minute deals when extra ad space is available close to a publication’s deadline.
A small business should look for a small agency that has some knowledge of or past experience in your target market. Many of them make money as a percentage of what you spend with the medium, paid by the medium.
An agency can develop an advertising plan or a complete campaign, depending on your budget. But once you hire an agency, don’t be a backseat driver and question everything they do. Don’t nitpick every detail along the way—just let them show you what they can do. They will bring you in for your comments and review when the time is right. You hired them for creative ideas and results, so let them apply their expertise while you assess the outcome.
There are several ways an agency can get paid. The most common is the 15 to 20 percent commission they receive from the media for placing your advertising. If your budget is small, they may ask for creative and artwork charges to pay for the formulation of your ads. Another method is a front-end fee or a contract with monthly billing to allow their staff to devote time to keeping your ads current and changing what’s not working.
If you’re only selling retail to a local market, find a one- or two person firm that knows the market well and has a lower fee schedule. Just realize that your agency needs to make money and pay their staff too, so be fair when dealing with them.