There seems to be a big trend in the marketing industry today. The internal marketing team sans agency help has become omniscient. They have become perfect in every way, have unlimited amounts of time, know everything and are generally able to perform every single task with perfect ideas and strategy every time. Unlimited budgets have led to unlimited staff, and bosses everywhere are singing their praises that every single aspect of their marketing is perfect – simply couldn’t be better.
No room for improvement. All the big ideas are covered. The tactics are the most effective and efficient that they can possibly be. Sales are literally rolling in, so much so, that most SMBs are turning away work – profits have never been higher.
I know what you’re thinking – bitter agency guy that’s having a hard time winning business, right? Actually, wrong. Most good agencies are doing pretty well these days, the economy has stabilized and the smart firms have made great strides in keeping their niche alive, continuing to pursue a solid business development strategy, and perhaps most importantly, focusing on their continued professional growth and expertise. Smart businesses and leaders are hiring good firms – they know they get a high value, lower overhead, can get things done, and get some amazingly creative ideas and insights at typically a fraction of the cost of adding additional staff.
And I bet our tools are fancier than yours, too, but that’s a different article (and why would you buy those internally anyway? That’s just a dumb spend).
You’re smart, right?
Most agency professionals that have been in the business for any length of time, almost by default, get pretty darn good at it – it’s what they do, and they’ve likely “been there, done that” so the expertise is pretty high. They know what works and what won’t, in almost all cases. In agency, you’re surrounded by professionals constantly learning and sharing with one another, consistently raising the game and the bar for the entire internal team constantly.
And, the agency doesn’t have a vested interest in failing, so honesty and experience simply take over when speaking with their client. I reiterate, this is true of good agencies and thus, many are doing well. But think of this way, you look around the landscape as this solid professional and see so many areas of marketing communications that could be improved at an SMB – a better SEO strategy, more consistent look and brand, better publicity and media relations, a website built in this century – yet it seems fewer are actually interested in having a professional address it. They believe “it’s just fine.”
Unfortunately, there is this new omniscience that has crept in to many an internal marketing person. Doing things wrong or poorly has become completely acceptable in many cases – not that it’s intentionally wrong, but that the internal team doesn’t know any better, and they don’t want outside counsel. Why? I believe they believe that they think if they have an agency or a firm, the boss won’t “need” them any longer. I had a conversation with a potential client that insisted that “PR was putting press releases on PRWeb.” When I asked what they were trying to do, the answer was “Get the press to cover it, and I found this great way to do, and it’s cheap.” When I shared that that doesn’t work, the reply was “we’re happy with the arrangement we have.”
After essentially years of poor and ineffective marketing, this omniscient person lost his job. And proceeded to inquire about working at my firm.
I recently had a prospect say: “Did you know there was this thing that you can post only one thing too and it will send it out on Facebook and Twitter automatically?” They were referring to HootSuite as if light speed travel had just been discovered and they were the first to discover it.
Another reason is that failure and mediocrity has become acceptable. Too many business leaders don’t know enough (or anything) about the tactics nor strategies of the ever changing world of effective and professional marketing communications to challenge the marketing team to strive for even success, let alone excellence. They wouldn’t know what success looked like. They don’t have established success metrics, benchmarks or measurements of success. They wouldn’t know what a “good press release” looked like. So, these horrific press releases continue to be put out and more of YOUR MONEY is wasted. And press releases are the tip of the iceberg.
Business owners are actually paying more for failure. Curious, eh?
Omniscience is in fact ignorance, and mediocrity has actually been replaced with abjectly incorrect actions in many cases. Certainly, this is not true of all in house teams, most of whom are competent and smart and want to do great things – but the real successful ones and smart ones, I bet they have a counselor they can turn to who likely “already knows” a good way to go about skinning the cat. I bet they “know someone” they trust, or indeed have a professional firm as a strategic partner.
There is a frustration level among professional agencies who know they can help. It’s like trying to find a job, and even though you know you can do better, you can’t even get the interview.
Think about it, a second opinion can be great. Options are a business leader’s best friend. A good agency will save you money and time, perhaps you only need someone to help with a strategy or a quick “hey, how would you go about this.” Isn’t that worth it in and of itself? Have someone you trust that you can call upon. Why do you think almost every successful business, regardless of size, has an outsourced marketing expert to either assist with strategy or professional execute tactics.
And business leaders, you need to get smarter on the functionality of marketing communications and how things actually work. If you’re an SMB, do you really have the time and money for someone to learn things most agency pros know like the back of their hand. Or, do you trust that internal team is indeed perfect, with no room for improvement and no need for counsel or fresh ideas. Do they have all the ideas and know each and every tactic or what will indeed work or not work. Do they have the time. The budget?
You want to be in the paper, do you say: “Put out a press release.” Or, “The papers will eat this up, we’ll really make a splash with this.” Or, “We sent out a press release, when will it be in the paper?” “Advertising doesn’t work.” “Twitter it.” All very specific signs of many more you don’t know marketing.
For many good agencies and executive level practitioners, this is all they do – every day. They know the vast landscape of opportunities and what is likely the most practical and efficient way to achieve a desired result (or have the honesty to say, “that won’t work”). The agency has no vested interest to fail, nor to allow you to fail.
So, the next time you find yourself not taking that agency call, reconsider. You may make a great new colleague. You might learn something new. You might have to call on them for a job one day. But, you should always have a professional on your side that can give you some good advice and some good insight. Because saying “everything is fine,” particularly when it’s loud and clear to most professionals that there is significant room for improvement is a reflection on both internal marketing team and leadership that mediocrity and failure is acceptable. Not that agency is “perfect” either, you must do your homework and find what is right for you.
Senior level strategy and big ideas? Tactical execution? Some combination. Experts in professional services or chewing gum? You get the idea. Strive for excellence in all that you do. If you’re in charge of marketing, you should be constantly trying to find opportunities and better ways and pursue new and fresh ideas. Go be more extraordinary and have some options on speed dial, you’ll be glad you did.