Does Having More Marketing Agencies Equal Better Results?
It’s an age of niche marketing, hyper-targeted segmentation, emerging platforms, and shifting consumer demographics. So it’s not surprising that with respect to marketing strategy and exection, it’s also an age of serious specialization. In the last decade or so, it’s become commonplace to find even mid-sized or smaller businesses using one agency for SEO, another agency for direct mail, still another for social, a contract copywriter, a freelance strategy consultant, a website company, and a media buyer. And maybe up to a dozen more specialist providers, depending on what that particular business has on their agenda at any given time.
There’s no doubt that the knowledge and insights of hardcore specialists can really make a difference when you’re competing in a highly targeted marketplace. Nonetheless, P&G (Proctor & Gamble) recently made headlines by announcing plans to cut down on the number of speciality agencies the business is using (and therefore the amount of money P&G is currently spending on agency fees) and reinvest the savings into more targeted, strategic agency work (as well as consumer-facing digital marketing). Many other big dog brands are expected to make similar announcements in the next couple of years, too.
This potential trend brings up an important question: Are we losing anything, both on the agency side and the client side, if we remain fragmented into areas of specialization – and do we stand to gain anything by backing away a bit from the fixation on specialities?
To find answers, we begin by taking a look at the pros and cons of working with a network of speciality vendors vs. working with an agency in a capacity that looks like the traditional “agency of record” model:
Collaboration: It’s hard to think of a scenario where we’re not smarter working together than working in silos. Yet all too often, that’s the scenario that plays out when a business is rolling out marketing strategy that’s executed by a network of non-connected specialist providers. If you’re a business that’s finding that your agency roster is growing bigger each year, it’s definitely worth it to stop and ask yourself if (a) it’s time to re-think your model or scale back or (b) if there are opportunities for your specialists to collaborate together for improved results.
Yes, collaboration is possible among specialist vendors – but it won’t happen without action and long-term commitment. On the client side, it can be as simple as requiring collaboration as part of the scope of work – and making sure that you’re only hiring agencies that demonstrate a history or willingness to play nicely with others. On the agency side, a scenario where there is no collaboration among specialists working for the same client can actually represent an excellent opportunity to show leadership. If your agency is the one that steps forward to champion the idea of collaboration – and maybe even map out a proposed model or action plan – your client is likely going to be very impressed, especially when they see positive outcomes down the road.
Deep Expertise: Clearly, an agency that has done nothing but healthcare marketing campaigns for the last 20 years knows a thing or three that the rest of us don’t. This type of expertise can really be helpful for a client who is opening up a new healthcare business, who has never really worked with a marketing or ad agency before.
However, a generalist provider that has worked with a range of clients has something that the specialist provider doesn’t: Global perspective. In the long run, a healthcare business may find that it was better off with an agency that was able to apply best practices, fresh approaches, and lessons learned from other types of clients, rather than a healthcare specialist who tends to work from one playbook.
Efficiency: “Okay, specialist, here’s your marching orders for this quarter, look forward to receiving your report in a few months, thanks for joining this meeting, adios.” With specialists, there’s usually no need for long strategy and planning meetings. You can usually get right down to business and wrap it up pretty quick – which can save you time as well as payment for billable hours.
On the other hand, the tendency for specialists to get on “auto pilot” as time goes on can sometimes result in lost efficiency at the end of the day. That’s because specialists on auto pilot can also become increasingly disconnected from your business’s big picture, which means that you’ll have to spend more and more time re-directing and re-routing in order to get the robust marketing results you’re after.
And speaking of the Big Picture: Perhaps the biggest downside of working with hordes of specialists is the loss of a partner who can work with you on big picture, integrated marketing strategy. Speciality providers can really drill down into the nuts and bolts of a particular tactic like nobody’s business, no doubt. But as you map out your business’s marketing future, it’s important to ask yourself: Are you losing out on the benefit of working with a partner who knows your business’s DNA like it was their very own?
We play nicely with others – but we also love being 24/7 marketing partners, too. Are you ready to talk more?