In Singapore’s highly competitive business environment, companies find it challenging to cope with their marketing activities without external help. This is especially so if the type of marketing initiatives they embark on involve digital mediums that have only become mainstream in recent years. With such a great demand for digital marketing services, the number of agencies providing them has increased substantially. An increase of this sort can bring more options and perhaps better deal for clients, but also result in agencies resorting to less than desirable techniques to acquire clients.
Such are the reasons why a lot of businesses are finding it hard to engage a marketing agency in Singapore that not only has their best interests in mind, but also the ability to bring in real results to supercharge their business. Before we drive deeper into the subjectivity of marketing and advertising that only adds to this problem, we need to understand the types of marketing agencies that are out there at the moment.
Types of marketing agencies
While some choose to focus purely on traditional marketing (such as newspapers, television, brochures etc), others specialize purely in digital marketing through online mediums such as search and social media. Of course, there is also the “full-serviced” marketing agency that claims to be competent in all areas of marketing, be it traditional or digital. Regardless of the type of agency you intend to go with, the usual difficulties in picking the right one do apply and this is made worse with the absolute subjectivity of marketing and advertising as described later on.
Calling for a pitch does not really help
With the many marketing strategies being proposed by participating agencies during a pitch, deciding on the one that will bring the best results can be a daunting task. A marketing director in a large fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company once told us after a pitch, “Everything may sound impressive and capable of bringing real results now (during the pitch), but it all changes once the job is awarded.” Fact is, we do not blame her for saying that as it is difficult to tell whether or not an agency will be the right fit by just assessing a proposal and some credentials. To put things into perspective, selecting a marketing agency in Singapore can sometimes be likened to shooting arrows in the dark.
Subjectivity is the key issue
Marketing and advertising in general is a rather subjective trade. It is very much a case of my rational against yours, your words against mine, or my preference against yours. This is made worse by the fact that agencies are not liable for the type of results that a marketing campaign brings about in most situations.
Such subjectivity has given rise to the number of totally incompetent players in the market. In all seriousness, it does not take much for one to call himself or herself a “marketing agency” and approach clients with as much clout as a properly established one. For such a person whose main objective is to make a quick buck in marketing and advertising, all he or she needs to have is the ability to communicate effectively and have some awareness within a specific niche. Such traits, coupled with some aggressive direct marketing, are usually enough for marketing projects to be awarded. Below, we describe in 5 simple steps a simple scenario that can lead to a bad decision on a client’s part.
- Someone who can communicate well and with awareness of the client’s niche decides to make a quick buck
- He or she devises a logical (sometimes impressive) sounding plan that may not pan out the way it is described to in reality
- Does some direct marketing (eg. cold calls, emails) to potential clients within the industry, makes a quick pitch over the phone on what his or her “agency” can offer and sets up a meeting for further discussion
- Meets up to make a detailed version of this impressive sounding pitch, and gets it refined to perfection over the course of a few meetings with different prospects
- A client feel that this is the right “agency” to take charge of their marketing activities, and they will go in accordance with the plan that this “agency” may not even have the capability or resources to execute
And bam, the client makes a bad decision and engages this “marketing agency” that will soon disappear into the depths of the deep velvet night with their marketing budget. Some may not agree with us on this point, but such is the subjectivity of marketing and advertising. As long as you have the communications skills, a niche-relevant plan and a good rationale, the money is there for the taking.
Unsurprisingly, such subjectivity does not only occur in the business development aspect of marketing and advertising. Let’s take copywriting as another obvious example; you can have 2 types of people writing about the same topic - one is a professional copywriter, and another is someone who is fluent in written English. If you had to wager $1k on the person who will write the better article before a panel of say 5 judges, would you dare to place this bet on the professional copywriter? If you ever placed a bet for soccer, we have the win, lose and draw options. In such a case, the odds would be something like $2.50 (copywriter), $3.10 (tie) and $2.60 (other person) respectively. The same goes for marketing and advertising proposals; you will not dare to bet on a professional marketing agency’s proposal if it went head to head with a person who has actual knowledge of the prospective client’s industry.
The direction to take to solve this problem of subjectivity
For such a trade in which subjectivity is at its maximum, what then is the best way to select a marketing agency in Singapore that is really able to help your business? The direction is obvious and you probably guessed it by now - set key performance indicators (KPIs) for the campaign that the marketing agency is going to carry out. Types of KPIs can include the number of sign ups for a trial, number of product/service enquiries, or even the increase in quantity of sales as a result of the campaign. But now that we are this far into the article, are we really going to leave this as the conclusion? Of course, there has got to be something more. Make no doubt, KPIs alone will not be enough.
From our perspective, the one and only way to safeguard yourself will be to request the marketing agency to set aside a substantial portion of the overall marketing budget as a variable component. This variable component will fluctuate according to the actual results of the campaign. Hence, if the overall marketing budget is $60k and you set aside 60% as variable, the marketing agency is only assured of $24k at the start. This will not only filter out those that come out with a nice sounding plan but are unable to carry it out in reality, but also give the chosen marketing agency (with a supposedly good plan) a true run for their money. That is the power of getting the agency to be directly responsible for the results of a campaign.
Realistically speaking, however, some marketing and advertising agencies (specifically the traditional ones) will not be comfortable with such a results focused arrangement. If an online marketing agency is unreceptive, it instantly raises a red flag on their competence and will be wise to forgo them altogether. As for the traditional agencies, well, in a modern world where high precision digital marketing takes center stage, who really needs traditional marketing methods unless the budget is huge and the objective is to blindly drive massive brand awareness?
With the competitiveness of the marketing and advertising industry, the difficulty that clients face in picking a good marketing agency in Singapore is undeniable. It is commonplace to encounter clients engaging a vendor that promises everything at the start but does not live up to expectations. Oftentimes, they rant about sub-par results and what they could have done to avoid such a bad occurrence. Hence, as a client, it is essential that you place yourself in a favorable arrangement from the very start.
By implementing the variable component within the overall marketing fee, you may risk leaving out some genuinely competent marketing agencies. However, the benefit from also removing the scammers from the picture and only having the real deals on the table for you to decide upon certainly makes this the better approach. Remember, it is always better to make the right decision from the start, than going ahead with what seems most rosy at first and regretting later on.