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Perhaps your company has choosen to keep all or most of your marketing strategy and advertising work in-house. Often, this operational plan is seen as a more efficient use of budgets and resources – and always ensures your company is the “agency’s” first priority. There are however, a host of reasons why internal marketing agencies and/or internal marketing teams fall short of greatness. Here are five of the top reasons that I have witnessed over the years, peering in from the external agency side of things.
- Cost: Internal teams may not be as flexible in some cases as an external agency. If your internal team’s sheer workload means that projects are moving too slowly through the pipeline, responding to competive marketing messages are too slow, or launching your next key campaign isn’t as timely as you planned – how might that hurt the company? Then consider the seasonality of your marketing or other business factors that may result in peaks or valleys surrounding human resources or employee training. Now, add things like computers and other materials, rented office space, health insurance, sick-pay and much more. Maybe what you thought were efficiencies aren’t really turning out that way after all.
- Motivation: Agencies typically work for clients based on an agreed number of hours each month (retainer), or through a pre-agreed total budget for a specific project. Companies can often find themselves trying to evaluate whether the hours spent by the agency were used efficiently or most successfully. Let me assure you, any great agency is giving their clients far more hours in service than they actually bill. This is because the best agencies are highly motivated to provide solutions that showcase a high-level of creative and strategic know-how – no matter how many hours it takes to think of it. Home, car, shower, you name it, we’re thinking about ways to impress you and motive your audiences. In addition to that pride for creating award-winning work, external agencies are also motivated by the simple fact that our hours are finite. Together we set the timeline and correlate your budget to a number of hours. Overshooting either the timeline and/or the hours needed to complete the task is a loss in revenue for the agency. Working fast and efficiently is our only option. The goal then is to continually improve our process and make the best use of our time. Extenal agencies also do not have the same level of job security that an internal group may have. And that’s motivation enough, too.
- The Bubble: One of the greatest challenges internal marketing agencies have is avoiding getting stuck in the bubble – that impenetrable sphere that ignores facts, delays necessary adaptation and is deaf to crucial market trends, evolving competitor messaging and changing customer behaviors. Far too often I’ve taken part in disussions with a company’s top leadership and internal marketing folks, only to be kept out of their bubble because I was prescribing a jolt of RedBull, but they wanted to keep drinking their kool-aid. Internal agencies have the disadvantage of having to sit in strategy meetings with the forces that often create those bubbles. External agencies have a major advantage of always being outside the bubble. In other words, objectivity combats mediocrity. Being confident enough to allow an external marketing partner to tell it to you straight is an englightening experience that you can use to your advantage.
- Broad Industry Knowledge: Internal agencies have been know to fall into the trap of paying far too much attention to their specific industry publications or developing their marketing solutions by watching what messaging or solutions their market leading competitors roll-out first. Beware of this practice, for it is a sure-fire way to remain mediocre. Don’t get me wrong, knowing what your competition is doing at all times and how they are attempting to leverage their strengths or spotlight your weaknesses is essential to success. However, far too often companies see a competitor’s marketing successes as a framework to follow for building their own success. Look outside your industry for big ideas and new trends just as much as you do inside.
External agencies have experience helping a broad range of companies with a host of unique marketing needs. Because innovative marketing occurs in every industry, an external agency with a variety of clients may be just what you need to fuel new ideas that no one in your industry has ever thought to try. This is why an external agency is so valuable. You’re B2B, maybe your agency’s other B2C client did something recently that could be modified perfectly for your audience. Look for an external agency with a nice mix of clients and you’ll find an agency that hasn’t hand-cuffed themselves with limited industry knowledge.
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- Specialized: Extenal agencies offer a range of resources with varied areas of specialization. Think of how much has changes just in the past six months surrounging Facebook marketing and mobile advertising. Can your internal marketing staff offer you the latest ways to best leverage these tools for your industry, or is their knowledge spread generally across a number of marketing tactics? External agencies thrive through continual education. We attend conferences, read leading industry publications, share examples of successful marketing campaign that span every industry imaginable, and are overall more focused on being at the highest level in our professions. This specialization usually means the ideas you’ll get from an external agency will also be a unified solution derived through a collaboration of highly specialized professionals – with ways to most successfully integrate multiple tactics. In most cases, if you need to stand out and expect cutting-edge, go find an external agency.
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