I had lunch recently with a bright young Marketing Manager. She confessed to me that she really had not heard the term agency review or search consultant before until she met me. I was not surprised. Agency searches don’t happen very often. Sometimes they are decades apart.
I was raised in an era when being a Marketing Manager or an Account Executive at a major agency on a national or global brand was a privilege. You were both stewards of the brand on opposite sides of the table. A chance to sit in a privileged chair for a couple of years and hopefully impact or nudge or steer a brand in a new direction that got traction.
You came home at night and when a commercial for one of your clients came on TV you could turn to the people in the room and say I had a hand in that. Your children looked at you with curiosity as if you were a magician.
I don’t know if Marketing people feel the same today, but I do know that the standards should remain the same. Marketing is a responsibility as well as a job. A review requires an intense level of due diligence and scrutiny and that translates to time.
Most clients do their own agency reviews. Since they don’t do reviews very often they do not possess the experience set to adequately conduct an agency search. Few marketers are current on the agencies that are out there and the reiteration of what agencies are today. The agency world is too fluid. Most clients can’t even keep up on everything that is happening in social media.
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Many clients that I talk to are overworked and have fewer resources that in the past. A large number aren’t really happy at their jobs but can’t leave. The majority want more work-life balance. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female, they all want more time with their kids. A review can mean dropping another couple hundred hours or more into their laps. Never mind the scheduling challenges that occur. It’s hours that they don’t have.
When clients do their own reviews they reach out to their network of other clients. They receive random recommendations of agencies selected for different problems and not aligned to their needs. Not the best way to solve their problems. Every review is different because all clients have unique and increasingly specialized needs. There are no cookie cutter solutions. Few companies can afford the tonnage of media that can cover up mistakes.
Today more than ever a client’s success is increasing tied to the resources around them. You need the best team because your competitors may have assembled the best team. Leaving the selection process to randomness may not achieve those results.
When people tell me that they are going to do it on their own, I think I have scissors at home but I don’t cut my own hair. Surrounding yourself with expertise improves your chances of business and career success.
I lead clients on journeys that provide clarity. You see what most clients think they want at the inception of a review is not what comes out at the end. The starting point is often based on solving the shortcoming of their current agency and not a vision of where they want to be. A search if well conducted exposes clients to a myriad of different options that are out there if you work with somebody that knows how to uncover them.
The agency world is often one of enhancement and hyperbole and embellishment. You need also someone who has the network and resources to check out fact from fiction.
In the final presentation, the President of the company will be there to evaluate the finalists. Without doubt, ensuring the best players are in the room is also an evaluation of your expertise. You want to create an environment where the choice will be hard and you astuteness will be recognized. In today’s world most clients will be challenged to do that on their own. I know I would be.