And how to find (the right) one
If you’re a marketing director, there’s a good chance you barely have the time to read this blog – but we promise it is worth a couple minutes of your time.
Assuming you have very little free time as you push hard every day to meet challenging goals and just keep up with everything on your plate, you may have considered whether or not to outsource to an Agency. From our admittedly biased perspective, it really is worth it for you to go this direction. Here are a couple of reasons why you should hire an agency (feel free to copy and paste any of this in your email to the CEO):
• Creative Skill – Agencies attract the best creative minds. That is where the talented professionals really want to be, so if you’re looking for someone to produce top-notch creative executions (ads, fliers, websites, apps, e-blasts, mailers, billboards, packaging, etc.), you want to look at an agency. The creative output agencies produce is generally developed as a team, so you also get a multitude of professional perspectives on your creative challenge.
• Fresh Perspective – When you stare at the same thing day in and day out, you can sometimes miss nuances and details. You become comfortable with these quirks and take minor flaws as the status quo. You are also dealing with internal corporate politics that can sometimes make breakthrough ideas a challenge to come up with, let alone present to higher-ups. A third party can bring new and different ideas to the table and sometimes the delivery of challenging or controversial notions or even just new thinking is better received coming from an outsider.
• Latest Thinking – When you work for a single company, you eat, sleep, and breathe a single brand. This focus allows you to dive deep into the brand and the issues specific to your product and industry. Agencies, however, work across numerous categories for many clients. They represent lots of brands and are constantly challenged to come up with new and different solutions for those brands. So an agency is more connected to the pulse of marketing, the trends in the industry, and the latest and greatest thinking and techniques.
• Professional Problem Solvers – If you’re lucky, you have a capable, handpicked group of experts working for you on your marketing team. Even if you do have the dream team, marketing professionals tend to be specialists in a single area. Agency teams, however, have a wider range of resources and perspectives they can draw upon, and people who work at agencies are specifically trained to identify and solve problems for clients.
• Capacity – You probably can’t afford (nor do you need) a full time designer, copywriter, PR agent, marketing strategist, digital analyst, media planner/buyer, or web developer. You might have needs for one or more of each of these at any given time, and then at other times not need any of these services. An agency already employs these types of resources, and can expand the resources being applied to your account easily, scaling up and down as your needs dictate. Maximum flexibility for you to get the job done.
If you’re still reading, you’re picking up what we’re putting down so far, and you’re looking into hiring an agency. So on to the “how to find (the right) one” part.
The definition of “the right” agency is going to change depending on your specific needs, but a few things to look for (and look out for):
• Don’t just hire your cousin. Everyone knows someone who works at an agency, it seems, but resist the urge to just hire someone’s friend.
• You want a strategic partner. The best agencies have strategy at their core. It’s not worth your time to work with an agency that doesn’t put a focus on this area.
• Get one that will be proactive. You don’t need another order taker. You need someone who will offer ideas. The best way to get this is to ask for a strategic retainer – money set aside solely for living the brand and feeding you ideas.
• Look at their work. Agencies worth their salt will have a portfolio on their website. And when you meet with them, ask to see their book.
• How do they treat their own brand? You can tell a lot about an agency by the way they treat their own brand. How is their website? What’s their social media game like? Do they write a blog? These are hints at how they will treat your brand.
• What services do they offer? Most agencies will tell you they are full service, but you should clarify what specifically they offer. They might use a partner for some stuff, which is fine and often seamless, but you should ask.
• Who’s going to work on your account? At big agencies, principals are high profile and have connections – they often shoulder the biz dev role and bring clients in, then hand off to a more junior account executive. That’s not necessarily a problem, but you should know (and meet) who your day to day contact will be to make sure you mesh well with them.
• Start with a small job. This one is important. Your best bet is to work on a smaller job with the agency – this lets you work out the kinks in the relationship, see how they work, and make sure the personalities are going to create a good end product. A small (paid) engagement is also good on the agency side and beats a (unpaid) pitch any day of the week. That’s called a win-win.
That’s about it in a nutshell. Hiring an agency can up your marketing game exponentially, and following our simple rules will help to ensure you get a good fit.
Now get back to work!