‘Should I use a marketing agency?’ is a constant question that partners ask themselves.
The answer should be that it’s not a black and white decision on whether to use an agency and it depends on what you plan to use the agency for.
In my role of working closely with partners I have seen partners using agencies in a number of different capacities.
These include hiring an agency to construct a marketing strategy and then hiring a marketing co-ordinator to execute on this strategy, hiring agencies to create specific campaign plans with associated tactics, hiring PR agencies to assist with PR activities, hiring agencies to create high value content to support a campaign/activity, and hiring agencies to offset a lack of internal capacity and the list goes on.
Where I have seen partners work most effectively with agencies is where the partner is fully invested in working with the agency for a successful outcome (whatever the activity in question might be). Where the relationship doesn’t work is when the partner ‘throws the work over the fence’ and expects an agency to ‘work its magic’. As a general rule, the greater the investment of time by the partner, the better the outcome will be. This has been particularly true for me in my marketing career at Microsoft and I always work very closely with agencies to get a better outcome. They are essentially an extended team for whatever I am working on at the time.
Agencies (large and small) have specialist knowledge that shouldn’t be underestimated and will cover a shortfall of expertise in any organisation, particularly one with a very small number of marketing staff. Agencies might have a particular specialisation around PR or marketing, specific to an industry, country or even continent (even more relevant in a Cloud world). By having a focus area, an agency can bring a whole level of knowledge and some excellent contacts, in addition.
Working with an agency is not for every company, but to assume that one person has the plethora of marketing skills that make up the discipline of marketing can lead to you limiting yourself to the skillset of that individual.