With startups and small companies, the norm is to hire good people, ask a lot of them, and hope for the best result. The upshot is that if they figure something out, they do so cheaply–often a must in the high-intensity world of startups–and thus the return on investment soars. The downside is that you often pay for what you get. Even if you bring on good talent, often talent is limited by these employees being used to operating in a big company, turning small dials for big gains and leveraging expensive tools to do things quickly. In an environment with not only no easy dials, but having to create the dials and having to manually work pieces that were automated at a previous company, startups often find these self-proclaimed mavens were supported by lots of institutional knowledge, foundational tailwind, and many other tools and insights that are often invisible. Such is the battles that startups face.
Large companies hire and install agencies, even when they have a big enough full-time workforce for lots of reasons.
#1. Insuring/Ensuring Success.
Even if they have a crack team of analysts or marketing folks or developers, why not double down by having a second set of external eyes to make sure nothing gets missed?
#2. Agencies Are Very Specialized These Days.
While you might be a company that makes cars, but you still need international sales compliance, global advertising and PR strategies, and customer marketing. None of these are core competencies for car manufacturers, but they are absolultely critical to their success. And there are tons of agencies, big and small, throughout the world who specialize in each of these fields, such as Bond Brand Loyalty, who ONLY does customer marketing–meaning they only help you market to the customers you already have. They don’t find new customers. Now that’s special!
In this way, big companies leverage the knowledge and tactics of people who have been doing this at the highest level for years and have them teach their internal teams how to make this work.
#3. Agencies Inspire Confidence
First, they tend to know the field/industry better than internal employees because their judgment isn’t clouded by hating the competition. Second, having a big agency involved is essentially bringing on a partner that is charged with linking arms to help you be successful. When clients and partners know that a big firm like Accenture or Deloitte is attached, they know you are in very good company and can afford the best.
When you get into big name design and advertising companies, they tend to BE the cutting edge, so you have the opportunity to wow customers in a way that internal employees often fail to achieve, as good of people as they might be.
#4. Don’t Forget There Are Agencies of All Sizes
You might not be able to afford a McKinsey or a Deloitte, but there are tons of agencies that specialize in your needs, that aren’t as big, have fewer clients, and don’t charge as much. If you are a local hospital or small business, you likely don’t need all that firepower and can instead opt for a local boutique marketing and design agency or development shop, that are incredible and also affordable. When you aren’t competing against every company in the world or in multiple languages and countries, local excellence is good enough.
There Are, Of Course, Downsides
If you habe been an internal employee or an executive, you have no doubt come across many over-priced and under-working agencies. It is and can still be very common. You must put in safeguards to both insure that you are getting what you are paying for and also that you are not paying forever. Create a good contract. Give yourself plenty of outs if they don’t hold up their end. Scrutinize details and create accountability. If you can do that, then agencies know then that they have to perform. While that should just come standard, it isn’t, unfortunately.