A salesperson for one of our clients came back from a sales call with that question ringing in her head. She had a good answer, fortunately, but it’s a shocking question to hear from a customer. It certainly applies to marketing agencies as well, of course, particularly today where everything changes so rapidly. And we ask ourselves that every day to make sure we’re relevant, that we’re not old-school.
So what’s the role of an agency today? Why hire an agency instead of building your own staff internally? Good question. Here’s some good answers:
- More efficient use of resources. That may surprise some of you, since agencies aren’t known as being inexpensive. But we are. When you hire a new marketing executive today, each hire had better bring to the table eleven specific skills to the job:
- Writing capability
- PR/media skills
- Social media
- Paid Search
- Graphic design
- Web development
- Trade shows
- Marketing strategy
Hired anyone like that lately? Of course not, and neither have I. It’s impossible to find one person who brings all of those capabilities, so the agency model of bringing all that to the table with a team of “hyperspecialists” is particularly efficient. As a corporation, you can duplicate that team by hiring 11 people, perhaps at $50K in salary, with a 12th as supervisor, and you’ve staffed a full service department for $600,000, conservatively. Now, of course those people are available for you full time, while you’re only getting part of an agency’s time. And that’s the point. You only use what you need. And the right agency brings you hyperspecialist capabilities that are hard to maintain on your staff.
- Focus and Accountability. We’re hired to do one thing, or one area of tasks. We’re not pulled by the president into a new project, or diverted over to help launch a new division or product. Take PR: I’m a PR guy from way back, and I’ve never seen a PR manager who has the time to work with media to generate as much coverage as an agency can. The internal PR executive is pulled in too many different directions, and those story pitches can always be done tomorrow -- but tomorrow never comes. Agencies don’t have that luxury. We’d better have something to show in this current monthly report. And we know that.
- Best Practices. Agencies work with a few dozen companies just like you. They see inside so many organizations, and are in a prime position to bring you the ideas that work best (and keep you away from the ideas that fail). You can't really do that with your own, in-house, marketing team (unless you spend all your free time networking with colleagues, time you can’t afford.) The best agencies embrace best practices, harvest those ideas, and bring them to your door faster than if you had to travel to conferences and discover them yourself.
- A View of What’s Next. In our shop, we’ve realized that every 2 years our jobs will be different. Marketing changes today that fast, so we’re constantly using and applying new technologies from last year’s Twitter initiative to today’s marketing automation to tomorrow’s WeChat (see Asia!) platforms that are starting to replace email. Think you have it figured out? Don’t get cocky -- next year, when Google Glass comes out, it will all change again.
- Freedom To Be Creative and Take a Risk. Risk-taking and creativity usually are sucked out of most corporate environments. That’s not a fault, that’s just how they’re built and how executives are compensated. And that’s why they need agencies, where we’re encouraged to bring creative ideas that just can’t grow in 99% of corporations.
- Accelerated Learning Curves for Implementing New Ideas. There’s no shortage of new ideas and programs to put in place. And most agencies have done them a few times already. You’ve done them once – or never. Why learn on the fly when your agency can tell you the eight mistakes to avoid, or get you up and running with faster results in less time. That new sales portal? Hubspot Marketing Automation? Remarketing banners? Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel or learning from scratch. You don’t have time.
- Objectivity. A good agency tells you when you’re wrong. And embraces that role. There’s enough yes people in life. An agency isn’t one of them.