A range of services and specialties fall under the umbrella of marketing agency: branding, advertising, digital, social, public relations, experiential marketing and direct marketing as well as hybrids of all of the above.
Having a focus is important. It allows the development of a deep expertise and helps companies navigate the options to find the best match. On the flip side, it can create a myopia that gets in the way of delivering great client service.
If an agency approaches every marketing challenge with only its core discipline in mind, it will miss opportunities that could broaden impact, maximize budgets and net better results. Does this mean that everyone should suddenly become generalists -- Jacks or Jills of all trades and masters of none?
No. But it does mean being willing to bring other experts or partners into the discussion to make the idea even bigger. This is what marketing directors at companies are charged to do all the time. And the more the dots are connected between marketing disciplines, the more successful the campaign.
Any agency already thinking this way is ahead of the game. Keeping that client perspective at the forefront is vital. In order to do so, marketing agencies must be willing to do a few key things:
1. Be nosy.
People in the business world must focus relentlessly on their own enterprise but the best are also keeping an eye on the competition. In addition to understanding the competitive landscape, marketing agencies must also look out at the wider world.
Cultivate a bit of a snooper sensibility and consistently gather examples of companies that are engaging their audiences in smart and relevant ways -- regardless of category or discipline. This can broaden an agency's thinking and inform its practices to keep the organization and its clients smart, sharp and ahead of the curve.
2. Surrender the square peg.
Sometimes a marketing agency doesn't have the best solution. This is a hard thing for agencies to admit. While it's important to be passionate about the agency's specific marketing discipline and believe in its power to build brands, know that there are times when the firm might not be the right fit.
Sometimes a client might approach an agency too early, when the company still has work to do as far as internal alignment on its goals. Other times an executive might say the client wants an awareness campaign but after some research it's clear that the company's metrics and budgets are better aligned with a digital campaign so that conversion rates can be closely measured and tracked.
Put the marketing director hat on and look for the best solution, even if it's not at the agency. Down the road when that client is seeking a partner in the firm's discipline to create an amazing experience for its brand, the agency will be at the top of the list -- and have credibility.
3. Sing Kumbaya.
A marketing director who focuses on only one part of the equation would soon find herself out of a job. Some of the most successful campaigns have involved multiple agencies from a range of disciplines. When it works best, the budgets have been carved out in advance, eliminating the need to compete for money and allowing everyone to focus on how making the campaign as successful as it can be. This is the fun part as the idea solidifies and all the dots are connected, with every opportunity maximized.
When beginning a new client relationship, proactively request agency partner contacts to make introductions, learn what everyone else is working on and see how to combine efforts to create something with an even greater impact. This goes against conventional agency thinking but it's a win-win for everyone and most important, the client. To ensure a seat at the table, sometimes it helps to pull out a chair for someone else.