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When I was running an in-house marketing and communications team I was vastly opposed to hire outside help. If I needed more design work done why wouldn’t I just hire a designer? More video? Make it a fulltime role!
That was my story and I stuck to it until agencies came calling that were actually helpful and highly specialized. And by highly specialized I mean that they have those experts in-house and they are available. Not: The sales person looked like an expert and once I hire them they’ll turn it over to an intern or often worst – outsource it even further.
Managing agencies can be a lot of work. Similar to hiring in-house people. But here are the true advantages great agencies bring to the table:
Digital agency advantage No. 1:
They run the project for you. Minimal management required. They know the process because if they are good they’ve done it a gazillion times. They make you feel involved but not overwhelmed. If they are worth the top dollar ? they are charging it won’t feel like managing an intern.
Digital agency advantage No. 2
They bring knowledge to the table only they can bring because they are working within many different clients. This might be one of the biggest disadvantages of an in-house team: They don’t see other similar organizations’ struggles like an agency can. So instead of learning from those mistakes, in-house teams have to experience them themselves first.
Digital agency advantage No. 3
You should get more headcount for the same amount of money than hiring full time people would have cost. For example: Let’s say the new content strategist hire cost $45,000 annually – which of course for most U.S. markets is entry level or even to low for that.
A decent content marketing agency likely will give you access to 4-6 people – including strategists, writers, editors and distribution strategists.
While you won’t have them for a year you have more expertise for that project.
Digital agency advantage No. 4
While digital agencies need to make money and cover costs, content marketing packages should be highly customizable. Really, anything in digital marketing is. Some organizations may need help with:
- Social media writing
- Stakeholder buy-in
- SEO optimization
And some need help with a mix of these or at different levels. Good digital agencies are willing to optimize and customize because that’s how digital marketing works: Situations are similar but often there are varying factors.
I’m actually surprised how many agencies have a “buy all or nothing attitude.”
Digital agency advantage No. 5
They adjust their recommendations based on updates in trends and user behaviors. Digital marketing is an ongoing learning experience – including for the experts.
Digital agency advantage No. 6
The good ones share recommendations that make them no money, but since they are getting paid for giving the best and most relevant opinion sometimes that includes software or other services that this specific agency does not offer. Consultants who don’t do this aren’t consultants but actually sales people. Not all answers can benefit the agency!
Digital agency advantage No. 7
They always look ahead at what’s next or what might be next. For example, offline channels are still important – somewhat surprisingly actually. I’m seeing more and more “traditional” digital agencies branching out into offline. That would be another advantage: One agency for all channels!
Hiring the right agency can help take an in-house strategy to the next level. Hiring the wrong one just creates more work and potentially a sub-standard work product. In summary, look for the agency’s level of:
- practicing what they preach
- stability (aka employee turnover)
Hiring the right agencies has helped me before. Good for me, I followed these tips myself and avoided hiring the wrong ones.