Reason #7: The agency has great processes.
Admittedly, this may be the least known or cited reason for hiring an agency. In all probability, it would likely depend on the kind of marketer you are, (heavily regulated, say) or the kind of work you seek (like branding a startup.) But nonetheless, this reason is popping up with more regularity as agencies try to distinguish themselves in an increasingly cluttered field.
So what does it mean that an agency has great “processes?” And why should a small to midsize marketer care?
Processes (academically referred to as proprietary business systems or categorically as operational business engineering,) are basically sets of plans or rules to tackle complex or long or large tasks. Typically, a process starts with a mission (what should this process accomplish?) and includes any number of tasks or steps, usually in a very specific and very predicated order, will almost always include intersections (with other internal processes or core disciplines,) and ultimately ends with achieving the objective or completing the task.
In some companies, processes like these are cobbled together as a loosely grouped set of best practices that are informally but systematically passed along from management to the execution team in timed increments. “Okay, before you release that ad to the newspaper, send it over to copy for one last proofread.” Many times, agencies have dozens of processes, but don’t even know it. You probably do in your own business.
In other cases, processes may be codified and embedded in the company’s core offering…fully invested by employees and management at the elemental level. And at agencies whose business it is to create stuff, you can imagine that some processes emerge as complex, creative and deeply thought out systems. In many instances, you’ll find agencies that brand and even trademark their processes.
There are any number of possible agency processes, but the likely suspects would be:
- Creative Development
- Situational Analysis
- Objective Formulation
- Media Planning
- Project Management
- New Business
And while we continue, let’s bear in mind that “Marketing” itself is just one giant process. So all activities of an agency working on your behalf will be some sub-process of the big enchilada.
So. Does it help to find an agency that has well thought-out processes? Absolutely. Generally, a process is built on two important aims: create VALUE for the customer, and create EFFICIENCY of internal resources. Both of those are yummy if you’re the recipient of the effort. Moreover, the most palpable benefit is that a process clearly suggests a constant and consistent FOCUS on a desired outcome. If that outcome leads to finding and testing the best expression of your product benefits (for instance,) then yay for you!
But beware an agency mired in process development, and obsessed with telling you about their processes as a lead story. Sometimes you pay more for all that pre-investment. Sometimes, in order to run a process, more people are required than if you executed a simpler or a more organic solution. Sometimes, agencies even try their hands at automation (especially in the media placement/measurement arena) and fail. Sometimes, the agency processes (or some of the people executing them) are outsourced. None of which are really good for your brand or your bottom line.
If you hire an agency because they have developed and they execute sound business processes, you’re probably in for an education in good business. But don’t pay more for it, (unless it’s a proven process that will save you time or money going forward.) And remember, the process should be the way to a solution, not what stands in the way of one.
Next – Reason #8: The agency did great work for another client.