Imagine you have a concern about your heart. You visit your regular doctor, they perform a few quick tests, offer some general advice, and then refer you to a cardiologist to look into the issue further.
This happens all the time in medicine. You start by seeing a general practitioner and when your needs go beyond their expertise, you go to a specialist who has the knowledge and equipment to better handle your unique situation.
So, why should it be any different in business?
"Full-service" marketing agencies are great in theory, but with the breadth of knowledge needed, it's nearly impossible to be an expert at everything. It's the specialized or "niche" agencies, that are really able to identify and address the specific issues facing your company. Just like going to the cardiologist, if you need a video for your website, why wouldn't you go straight to the video experts? It just makes sense!
I recently sat down with Pete Caputa, CEO of Databox and Joe Jerome, Founder of Brand Builder Solutions for a podcast about why partnerships between specialized agencies are beneficial for both clients and agencies. Joe and I are both passionate about helping companies of all sizes maximize their marketing dollars by hiring specialized agencies instead of marketing generalists.
Listen to the full discussion below or scroll down to check out some key excerpts from our conversation.
The Myth of the “Full-Service” Agency
If an agency describes itself as “full service,” they may as well be proclaiming themselves generalists in everything.
The reality is that most marketing agencies are boutique in size, generally between 15-30 employees. When you consider that "full service" would include branding, pay-per-click marketing, video production, social media, paid media, marketing automation, and about 100 other services, it becomes clear that most agencies simply don’t have the bench to expertly address all of those areas.
Only the major marketing firms truly have the capability to offer full service, and their prices will reflect that. If your budget allows you to partner with one of those major players, they may be able to provide great service. But, if like most companies, you’re trying to stretch your marketing budget as far as you can, you’re going to be better served partnering with a specialized agency.
Specializing in Success
Specialized agencies are beneficial for clients because they're just that, specialized. Their value comes from their ability to drill down into a problem with great detail and identify every opportunity for success within a given campaign. The depth and focus they bring to a particular service offering allow specialized agencies to see issues others might miss and find creative ways to implement solutions. The level of detail and expertise specialty agencies provide can give you confidence that you're maximizing your potential marketing ROI.
The key is finding a way to strategically align your agency partnership in a way that brings your company the most value. For example, if you're in the technology space and have a need for social media marketing, you want an agency that specializes in the tech industry, understands the pain points and knows your competition. You want to partner with an agency that not only specializes in the service you need, but one that's expertise, experience, and connections make them a strategic fit for your company goals.
The important thing to remember is that specialized agencies provide value beyond just their deliverables. By correctly leveraging the strategic insights, partnerships, and experiences they offer, you can take your marketing activities to the next level. Before hiring a specialized agency, make sure to consider all the potential benefits they could bring beyond their stated specialty.
By definition, specialized agencies have concentrated on a limited scope of services and aren't interested in doing everything for everyone. But that doesn't mean they can't.
Through strategic partnerships, specialized agencies are able to expand their offerings and provide clients with the kind of "full-service" approach that creates well-rounded experiences. But for clients, it's about more than just buying marketing services a la carte. Specialized agencies that take the time to foster strong relationships with their partners can create value and efficiencies for clients that go beyond complimentary deliverables.
For example, StoryTeller routinely partners with Brand Builder Solutions, a website development company. By working together, both companies are able to offer related services to their clients, and the strong working relationship between the two companies means project workflow is efficient and painless. Because Brand Builder Solutions works within HubSpot, the same software system StoryTeller uses, communicating and implementing solutions is seamless, helping avoid the kinds of compatibility problems that can derail projects.
This kind of synergy between partner agencies yields major benefits for clients. Yes, you'll have one more vendor to add to your list, but wouldn't you rather get expert video production and expert web development, rather than use one "full-service" agency and get mediocre work on both fronts? The choice seems pretty easy.
Prove It To Me
You've identified your marketing need, you know you want to hire a specialized agency, and you've found a few options. So, how do you know who to hire?
A great way to determine the true capabilities of a marketing agency is to visit their digital channels and see if they practice what they preach. If an agency says it creates stellar videos, look at how they use video on their website, or check out their YouTube channel. If they offer automated email marketing, sign up for their mailing list and see what kinds of experiences they create for prospects.
It’s astounding how many agency sites fail to deliver proof of their service offerings and supposed expertise. A quick scan of a company's blog may tell you everything you need to know about what their specialty really is, or if they have one at all.