Do you really need an agency?

Do you really need an agency? image
For many businesses, the question still arises, ‘Why use an external agency to support our marketing efforts, when we already have an in-house marketing team?’

The UK’s annual advertising/marketing spend in 2018/19 was £20.87 billion.  By far the greater part of that expenditure was spent through agencies (Procter and Gamble alone had an agency spend of £196m!).

Many smaller businesses take a rather defensive stance: ‘We’d love to do things in a more creative way but we don’t have the budget.’

This is a wasted opportunity.

The internal marketing team’s job is to interpret the management’s commercial objectives, control expenditure and deliver the highest possible return on investment (ROI) by the best available means.  This can be a challenging and complex task for a small department, especially in these days of convergent and divergent routes to market. 

An agency’s job is to deliver greater value (more sales per pound spent) than an in-house team by making more informative and imaginative use of the budget available. 

Here are the top seven reasons we think creative communications agencies like RMS are capable of doing that and are, by definition, worth their weight in gold!

Ideas, ideas, ideas

The most important thing an agency will do is deliver a stack of ideas.  Rather than safe solutions that have ‘worked’ before, an agency will bring fresh ideas – often ideas that many in-house marketing teams simply wouldn’t have even contemplated.

Agencies are built around creative thinkers, people who spark off each other (check out our piece about the creative thinking process) and take pride in coming-up with arresting and original propositions pointed precisely at the target audience.

We’re not saying in-house marketing teams lack ideas, rather that they are focussed on other essential day-to-day activities such as planning, measurement and analysis. Put simply, they tend not to have neither the luxury of ‘thinking time’ nor the inclination to explore the oblique possibilities which are so crucial to the development of unique creative marketing ideas.

A problem solved

We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘two heads are better than one’ and ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

Using an agency provides a whole team of talented people with a wealth of experience who put their heads together to help solve a particular challenge.  Working in isolation or as part of a small in-house team limits the scope of collective contribution.

As well as providing practical and creative ideas, an agency team provides a crucial filter to prevent dud ideas being imposed by enthusiastic but misguided senior management.

Range of skills

Agencies, by their very nature, are populated by people with a wide range of specialised skills - from copywriting to design, website building to digital marketing, media relations to social media. 

An agency can deliver a complete and comprehensive solution, a complete campaign from one place.

Using a number of disparate freelancers and suppliers can be costly, difficult to manage and time consuming. It also has threatens to dilute the impact and messaging of a brand.

Seeing the wood from the trees

Usually business owners and in-house marketing people are incredibly knowledgeable about their company, its specialism, services and products.  The downside of being so immersed in their own culture is that they may fail to see things from the perspective of a customer, prospective customer or their other wider stakeholders and publics.

Managements have a marked tendency to become preoccupied with the features of the products or services they have on offer.  An agency will take a more customer-focussed approach - clarifying messages and putting the emphasis on benefits.

Visibility, sales and morale

A great marketing campaign will increase a company’s visibility and help increase sales.  It will also put a business on the map, ensuring the audience sits up and takes notice.

However, the positive impact a great campaign can have on the morale and engagement of staff and other stakeholders is often overlooked.

A strong creative campaign – or simple, consistent, quality marketing activity – will create a feeling of pride and worth, with all the associated quantifiable and intangible benefits this can bring.

Strategic thinking

The key to getting the best out of an agency is to be completely truthful from the outset about your objectives.

Whether you want to get on the radar of potential buyers, ahead of an exit; raise your profile as an expert about a particular topic; or simply want to sell more products, an agency will craft an appropriate campaign.

This might involve a campaign aimed at the mass market or one that targets a small number with pinpoint accuracy.

Whatever your strategic requirements, the broad spectrum of experience and skills within an agency mean it will know the most effective way to reach your audiences.

Ways of working

Remember, you don’t have to make a huge, on-going commitment to an agency. 

You can give them a one-off project - the more specific the brief/challenge, the better - to test the water.  This way, you’ll get a feel for the way the agency works, see if you like and regard the people you’re dealing with and, most important, test whether their claims and ideas actually stack-up. 

It’s in everyone’s interest to prepare a written brief.  This might seem like a tedious chore but it will focus your mind on what you’re really expecting them to achieve and will ensure your agency is heading in the right direction from the outset.  If you don’t have much experience of writing a brief, most agencies have a set of questions they will happily share with you.

Be prepared to set aside a budget and state what it is before briefing the agency. This will ensure they present appropriate and achievable proposals and don’t veer off on a wonderful but unaffordable flight of creative fancy.

Appointing a creative communications agency should be viewed as an exciting step in your marketing journey.  A great agency will give you a whole new team of people to bounce your ideas off and ultimately inject a new lease of life into your marketing activity.  And if you’re still unconvinced about their value, put a price on the lifetime value of a new client or customer base they’ve helped you acquire.

ROI.  It’s all about ROI.

Everyone at RMS loves the challenge, process and buzz of coming up with ideas that deliver so give us a call on 0161 927 3131 to see how we can support you.