Sometimes agencies get the short end of the stick when it comes to reputation. We can be viewed as conniving and egotistical at times, maybe because of shows like AMC’s Mad Men. Some people think agencies charge too much for not doing enough work. Many clients leave agencies because they feel they simply are not listened to. Agency folks always seem to know better.
I’m sure that these things are true when it comes to some agencies. Not all people are great. Not all agencies are great. But the reputation other agencies have should not influence your desire to work (or not) with agencies if you need marketing help. In fact, albeit our slightly biased opinion, we feel that agencies are under-utilized in today’s confusing and ever-changing world of business.
We thought we’d offer ten ways that an agency could probably help you right now, right at this minute.
1. Tracking new platforms and technology
We often hear people lamenting that the marketing world is simply moving too fast. Especially if your official position is something like “VP Sales and Marketing,” you already have a lot on your plate. You simply do not have the time to chase after every new shiny object. Needless to say, that means you also don’t have time to evaluate all of those shiny objects to see if they’re right for you. Rather than missing an opportunity or jumping into something eyes wide shut, you can use an agency to evaluate opportunities for you. It’s an agency’s job to be on top of these things. If they aren’t on top of it, they aren’t doing their job well.
2. Playing devil’s advocate
We’ve talked before about how important it is to have a devil’s advocate . You’re close to your product, you’re close to your projects, and it is difficult to see how people new to your product may perceive it. An agency can offer you an outsider’s perspective while also keeping your best interests in mind.
3. Bridging the gap between sales and marketing
We have talked quite often about the importance of silo busting in today’s business world. An agency can help increase the effectiveness of communication between your sales and marketing personnel because the agency needs feedback from both departments anyway. Agencies can offer ways that marketing and sales can improve their collaborative work and they can help streamline processes to make lead nurturing more productive.
4. Exposing communication gaps in your company
This can be painful, but as different people in your company communicate with an outside agency, the holes in your company can become more readily visible. If you truly trust your agency, you can learn where these communication gap are and, better yet, you can get advice on how to improve your internal communications overall.
5. Improving communications with your sales team
If you depend on sales reps or distributors, you may feel like you are sending unguided individuals out to blindly promote your company and products. An agency can take some of the time strain out of trying to hone your branding message, your product messaging, and more so that the C-Suite has the same bullet points that your sales team has. Again, an outsider’s perspective can grasp the big picture of who is saying what and how.
6. Integrating marketing tactics
Because an agency is more focused on your marketing issues, they can help you incorporate different ideas into your marketing strategy. For example, if you have always depended on direct mail but want to do some exploring of Facebook, an agency can offer ideas on how to help both of those tactics co-exist. This kind of planning can be difficult for a person who cannot dedicate themselves entirely to the marketing of the company.
7. Delivering tough news
It can be intimidating for an employee to offer criticism, no matter how constructive, of his or her boss. However, an agency, a good one, is paid for its expertise. If a product is not of the highest quality, if an agency perceives that the market is too big or too small, or if the agency is aware of extremely strong competition that offers a better product, that news can be delivered with more freedom to management. This needs to be handled carefully, but a good agency can help a company stay balanced in its approach to new products and new marketing.
Let’s face it, trade shows and trade publications offer great opportunities for monitoring the competition, and that’s not even counting what social media can do these days. An agency can drift in and out of booths and can take the time to leaf through magazines to see what the competition is up to. A really good agency can also nurture relationships with publication representatives, who may sometimes let interesting news fly.
Because an agency is required to have a grasp of so many different facets of the business world today (again, assuming they’re doing their jobs), agencies can offer particularly astute recommendations and observations that may not be available within a company’s walls. From organizational structure to changes in the industry to every facet of marketing, a good agency can serve the role of the truth-telling friend. This kind of relationship requires credibility and reliability, of course.
Of course, agencies can also do what you think of most when you think of agencies. They can strategize. They can design. They can write. They can do “the stuff” that marketing campaigns are made of. They can take burdens of time and responsibility off your shoulders. They can freshen your brand and your company’s image. They can invigorate your company with a well-executed product launch. Execution is really the last step though. An agency worth its salt will emphasize points 1-9 first.
We believe strongly that an agency should do all of these things. We strive to do all of these things for every single one of our clients, and the more we are allowed to serve these roles, the more seriously we take that relationship.
Have you used an agency lately? Have you considered it? Maybe it’s time to give agencies another look.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/starbright31/7005113825 via Creative Commons