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How to Evaluate Your Need for an Outside Agency

So you’re thinking of bringing in an outside agency to help you with your marketing needs. Sweet! Chances are you're excited, nervous, or maybe a combination of both because new vendor relationships can be a bit nerve-racking. That's especially true if you’re going in blind! But first things first—before you even begin exploring outside agencies, we recommend you take time for an internal assessment and really discover what your needs are before you begin researching and reaching out to possible partners.

Having an understanding of why, where, and how an agency will help you provides a solid foundation and road map for your conversations with outside organizations.

Consider the following:

1. Are you trying to fill a services gap?

We’ve seen many organizations over the years try to bring agency-like services—such as design, development and strategy— in house, thinking they will save money in the long run and be able to do it all themselves. While this model works for some, it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Teams start strong in-house, but often grow weary and the quality of work suffers, especially in organizations where roles are doubled up on individuals. For example, consider Mary Jo, who oversees all print marketing materials for her organization and is suddenly tasked with developing a digital marketing strategy, all on top of her existing responsibilities. That's a lot to expect from Mary Jo!

It might seem like a win for the organization—first-hand knowledge of your products and services, no real jump in expenses, etc.—but is it in the best interest of your organization to dedicate crucial services to an individual or department that can’t give it 100 percent of their attention or have the depth of knowledge to complete the project you’ve tasked them with?

An outside agency will be dedicated to the tasks and services you hire them for and will be focused on providing results. After all, your success is what drives their success as an agency.

2. Do you need help in a specific area of expertise?

This is the most common reason for bringing in an outside agency. It's similar to the step above, but usually a step ahead, because you already know you’re not an expert in the area you’re trying to fill, and you want the best from the outset. While you are the subject matter expert on all things product and service for your company, agencies are going to be up-to-date on industry trends and insight, knowing what is (and isn’t) working. This means good news for you when leveraged correctly.

You might be looking for help with content strategy, microsite development or social media marketing—there’s an agency for that—and one that can be added to complement existing efforts, all while supplying just the right level of expertise.

Hiring an agency doesn’t mean you're hiring a single person to execute your needs. No, you're hiring an entire team that lives and breathes their unique areas of expertise day-in and day-out.

Here are just some of the benefits you get when partnering up with a stellar agency:

  • You gain access to their process and tools, which are built into how they approach projects to deliver successful results.
  • They know how to ask questions to better understand your company, products, services, and industry.
  • They operate on their knowledge of successes and challenges from past projects.
  • They've A/B tested their work in other industries.

3. Are you paying more than necessary?

You may be thinking that it'll cost an arm and a leg to bring in an agency to work with you, but consider this—if you try to create an in-house agency, you’ll be paying salary, benefits, and other expenses for the individual(s) completing the work. And, you may not even have continuous work for them. But if you partner with an external agency, you’ll only be paying for the services needed or the projects as they come and go. No fixed overhead costs!

You may even be able to find cost efficiencies on projects the longer you work with a particular agency because they'll need less time to get up-to-speed and understand your business.

4. Can’t see the forest through the trees?

Even with the best of intentions, many people become entrenched in their own areas of expertise and can be less receptive to new ideas or ways of doing things. Bringing in an outside agency—even for a consulting engagement—can help bring new ideas to the table. That's not to mention that the agency can act as a mediator when objectivity is needed.

It’s a great way to restore balance and bring in a fresh perspective.

Does any of the above sound like your organization? If so, give yourself a pat on the back for taking the time to really delve into the reasons you’re looking for outside help. Now it’s time to start exploring agencies and find the best fit for your needs and organization.

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