When CMOs sit down to discuss a contract with an agency they’d like to hire, they’re frequently focused on their billable rate and how many hours the agency will work for them.

But why? Who gives a crap?

I’m pretty sure that what you really want is an agency that will do great work. And yet, this standard conversation isn’t focused on their talent and expertise; it’s focused on how much time they’re expected to spend on your behalf.

How long it takes to complete a task is the agency’s internal issue. As the top marketing person at your company, you’re not judged by how much time the agency spends working for you; you’re judged on whether they’re good at their jobs and help your brand succeed.

Great marketing is all about hitting home runs. You need that lightning bolt to strike if you’re going to have a breakthrough hit. And deciding to pay (possibly) mediocre talent a low hourly rate is not the way to make it happen. This isn’t manufacturing; it’s knowledge work, and those lightning bolts can strike at any time. (Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should simply hire the most expensive firm.)

Think of it this way: Should you hire the agency that has the lowest billable hourly rate, regardless of whether they can have a positive impact on your efforts? No! You should hire THE BEST – the agency that can deliver what you need, be a good strategic partner, and do so at a cost that’s fair to you.

But a lot of your peers out there are focused on hourly rates. I’ve written that paying for content marketing based upon billable hours is a bad idea. The problem with billable hours is that it’s the wrong incentive for content creators – they should not be compensated based upon how long it takes them to write something; they should be compensated based upon the quality of the writing. Someone who needs a longer time to complete a writing task is often (but not always) someone who isn’t as strong a writer.

When it comes time to choose a marketing partner, please don’t focus on how much time they’re going to spend, and what their billable rate is. Focus instead on whether they’re committed to helping you succeed, and whether they have the skills to make it happen.