I know sometimes we just have to use an agency
Throughout my years of being a marketer, one thing has been a constant…I don’t know everything and I can’t do everything. Whatever happens, there comes a point where you need to hire an agency and outsource activity because you just don’t have the internal experience and so need to go to so-called experts in their field. My opinion on this is actually quite split and it’s also quite a colourful opinion too.
I’ve had a mixed bag when it comes to agencies. Firstly, I’ve worked with two agencies GREAT agencies that I would choose to bring in, wherever I go and the rest of them, I’d quite happily forget they existed.
Maybe that’s poor management on my part, but I am actually very transparent and very clear about what I want and need because I want to make it as easy as possible for an agency to deliver what I ask for rather than have to go back and forth.
Working with agencies
Often, when you inherit an agency, you have to learn to work with them within an established system, it can become quite trying because they need to adapt to your style of management and sometimes that can cause friction. Not just that, a lot of them promise the earth and deliver nothing, yet still want you to pay them and still want to be on your books the following year. My philosophy is, if we’ve collectively agreed on the target and you’ve put forward a forecast, are on retainer and earn a decent wedge of cash from me, then do your job… don’t make me have to get in touch every five minutes, don’t make me chase you and don’t make excuses as to why something hasn’t been done especially when you haven’t managed my expectation and given me ample warning.
Managing expectation is so important
In fact that is my biggest frustration – not having my expectations managed. If you tell me that you’re going to get a proposal to me by the end of the week, then make sure that you get it to me by the end of the week. I would have planned my timeline around that, if you tell me at 4.59pm on a Friday afternoon that I won’t get it till the following Wednesday, then I am going to get really irritated. Do it once, I’ll accept it, do it continuously then I am going to get annoyed.
I also think that some agencies aren’t realistic and don’t understand your business needs no matter how many times you explain them. Let me give you an example, if you know that I have a certain budget to spend on a campaign and then you come back to me with a proposal three times that amount, it is HIGHLY likely that that is going to be rejected. If this is the case, if you know that my budget won’t stretch, tell me. If you don’t think the campaign will work, then tell me… don’t waste my retainer time or waste my marketing spend on something that won’t deliver.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER
Finally, I think it’s important to think about the business size and cultural fit. Often an agency comes in that’s just too big and you aren’t ready for them – your budget won’t stretch, or your retainer doesn’t give you enough workable hours and so your campaigns are half-cocked, poorly executed and leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
I’ve had that experience a couple of times and that’s where a few of my important lessons about choosing an agency have developed:
- Put it out to tender – don’t just go on a recommendation, meet them, get different proposal and also, meet them with more than one person and get differing viewpoints.
- Think about the business culture – think about the culture of your business right now and where you want to get to, does that agency align with what you want now and where you want to be in 3-5 years?If you’re a small business and you work with a large agency then naturally you will be the lowest priority.
- Think about specialist experience – there are some agencies that are jacks of all trades and there are some who are specialists in specific disciplines, so think about what you need as a business. Just because an agency can talk a good game, doesn’t always mean they will be able to deliver.
- Think about your sector – do the agencies that you’re choosing have a proven track record in that sector?
- Their track record – I ALWAYS speak to other clients before I hire an agency, I want to know about their experience with them, the account management, response times, performance and every other metric under the sun.
I don’t hate agencies
Now before you think that I hate all agencies and am a really difficult client to work for, I don’t and I’m not.
However, my years of experience have taught me that when you choose and work with an agency, you really need to trust them. They can command a lot of your budget and so for me, it needs to be spent well, with the right people, who understand me and what my business needs are.