Day 2 in a 10-day series on reasons to hire an agency.
So yesterday, we examined perhaps the most-often cited reason for hiring an agency, which was to have access to great, talented people. See Yesterday’s Post >
Today, we’ll look at perhaps the second most popular reason, and perhaps the most dangerous (for both parties.)
Reason #2: The agency has experience in my vertical.
This is another very popular reason that small and midsize companies choose an agency. And also a very typical path for b-to-b companies. These marketers are looking for some assurances that they’ll be in the hands of experts – and previous experience in a particular vertical (like steam pipe fittings, or enterprise servers, or mattresses,) provides them on some level.
Why is vertical knowledge so valuable? There are many reasons, but the main one is definitely money/investment. When a company wants to market itself in a particular industry – again, especially in b-to-b – it needs to speak to a specific audience through specific channels and create differentiation and memorability. And quickly. They last thing they can afford is to pay some agency to navigate a learning curve. Plus, in these specialized industries, it’s easy to slip up, even innocently, and ruin a campaign, or an entire marketing plan with a wrong word here or a mis-usage there. That’s way too risky and expensive a proposition for any company to make, so you may hear a lot of the “let’s just find a shop who knows our business” being whispered between decision-makers as they sign off on the marketing budget.
Is it possible that an agency full of talented and intelligent people could do some research, and learn about your vertical? Absolutely. And in some ways (not all,) it may provide better, cleaner marketing expressions as a result. It’s something I call “creative curiosity.” But it almost never happens.
But be warned. Choosing an agency for vertical experience can also be dangerous for both you and the agency. When an agency has been doing, let’s say, automotive retail for the better part of the last 15 years, it’s not likely to try anything remarkably new or daring…it’ll go to what works, it’ll run your ads in the media it knows, it’ll do what it thinks will generate results. And chances are, if they’ve been successful for the last decade and a half, it probably will generate your requisite ROI. And you’ll like the results, and you’ll be content that your message is out there.
But it may end up being boring. Or just mildly effective. Or worst of all, it’ll just look like everything else in your space. This is why marketers have to learn to ask themselves hard questions. Questions like “do I want to be safe and effective, or do I want to be different and daring?” Both are valuable, depending on what kind of marketer you are, and what you instruct your agency to do. Remember, even if you hire an agency that has loads of experience in your vertical, you’re still going to want something new, something fresh. So why not give that same charge to an agency who doesn’t have experience in that vertical, too, and see what comes out?
Tomorrow: Reason #3: They’re great in this medium.