All marketing is not created equal. I believe that from an executive’s perspective, there is marketing that they view as a necessary cost of business and marketing that they are pleased to fund. The difference is in the attitude of those providing the services. And whether you have in-house staff that do your marketing, use outside providers, or both, you want marketing you are happy to fund, which I call value-added marketing. The two kinds appear only slightly different, but there’s no mistaking how different the results are. Here are some examples of how value-added marketing is different.

Charge According to Value

Value-added marketing isn’t priced on an hourly basis. A lot of marketing is priced according to how much labour was expended in creating it. ¬†This practice isn’t in the buyer’s best interest, because it gives little incentive for the marketing provider to work at top speed.

From the provider’s perspective, value-added marketing works as follows. Normally the largest input is labour, and since the time worked on a marketing task varies, the cost becomes variable. A value-added marketing provider stands apart by setting a fixed price for the output (what the buyer wants) and finds a process for delivering it so reliably, that they can still pay their labour based on time, but present it to you as a fixed cost.

Value Your Time

When searching outside providers, you will naturally gravitate to those who have already added value, before you have a business relationship with them. Something they posted once caught your eye. Someone may have mentioned them positively. Perhaps you called them because you were in a bind and they got you out of it with thoughtful advice, without asking anything in return.

Contrast this with the provider that cold-calls you. Cold-calling assumes that you weren’t busy and could be interrupted by the caller. Calling assumes that the caller knows when you are about to buy (never mind budget cycles, internal stakeholder talks, etc). I feel silly pointing this out, but the act of making a cold-call these days flies in the face of some grade-school logic. Calling assumes that, in the internet era, prospects whose job is to research a purchase, can’t hop on a search engine and look up answers (I’m sure the seller’s company would appear atop search results).

Know the Value of Education

Most of the people who are good at online marketing work hard to keep up in this always-changing field. You need someone who’s running on the hamster-wheel, following every platform and industry trend, informing your marketing efforts. These marketers devote time to blogs that cover the field, they attend conferences, they speak on topics in the field they feel passionately about. Ensure that someone’s on the hamster wheel, so you don’t get left behind.

If you’re a company looking for outside marketing services, scrutinize what they put more focus on: your needs or their capabilities. As head of a marketing firm, it’s easy to be enamored with all the talent and tools one has at hand. A glance at many agencies websites shows this love of talent and the creative services that it breeds. Heck, we’ve even turned the word ‘creative’ into a noun, we’re so enamored with it.

There’s nothing wrong with creativity, but it’s only a means to an end. That being, of course, results – what you, the client, really care about. It’s not about the marketing per se, it’s about how marketing will yield results for you.

Tie their Value to Revenue

Growing revenue is the goal of any company, which is why many place the lion’s share of their marketing budget on activities that tie to that goal (like advertising, lead generation). They can also create marketing that’s indirectly linked to revenue (like awareness building, corporate positioning), but within limits set by your overall strategy. Value-added marketing providers think mostly about how they will make you money, because that’s the money with which they’ll get paid. If a marketing provider shies away from doing revenue-related activities, consider the value they offer versus the value other providers offer.

In conclusion

Reality is, it is hard to instantly know when you’re working with value-added marketers. All marketers are skilled at saying the right things, whether it be at a job interview or an agency pitch. But the differences become apparent as the time comes to follow through on their words. As John F. Kennedy’s said, “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

The good news is that when you have value-added marketing, you will see results that swing your spending logic around from ‘how much budget am I prepared to devote to this?’ to ‘how much marginal revenue can my current infrastructure handle?’