I was once told there are something like 35,000 advertising, digital, PR, social, and marketing agencies in the US. I do not know if this number is true but imagine it is and ask yourself what makes anyone of them different from the next? This is the question I asked when hiring agencies as a marketing leader with various building products manufacturers. It is the question I asked when starting my own agency. What makes your agency different is a common question I field when talking with prospective clients. I suspect you have either asked or have been asked the same question. As you plan for your next conversation with your agency, may I suggest you ask your agency team if they have the following experiences:
Lead the development of a new product or managed a product life cycle?
If you are a building product manufacturer you know this is a unique experience that requires an important set of skills. I remember being asked to lead a team to develop a new completely new product line using the existing product line as the baseline using new materials as the differentiator. In addition, we were asked to simultaneously create a field service solution for the existing product. All of this under a short timeline and the highest level of scrutiny with the greatest implications for the business and the company’s reputation. Being a part of a team that develops a new product creates context that only a person with this experience appreciates. It makes a difference that your agency partners have walked in these shoes when they are being asked to help you build a new product launch plan.
Built a product line pricing strategy?
Traditional marketing under the four Ps of product, price, place, and promotion is a real thing. Knowing how to assess the implications of a pricing strategy on the success or failure of a product, the business, and the success of your distribution and contractor partners is meaningful. Having an agency partner that understands the implications of a pricing strategy provides context to the communications work you are asking them to complete or the strategic insight they can provide.
Made sales and service calls
Early in my career, I was required to spend time in the field working alongside sales and service people. Unequivocally, this is the best way to fully understand the different audiences we are working for as marketers and as agency partners. There is no replacement for hands on, in person knowledge when determining how to position and message a product. Identifying the opportunities and implications of programs and services you may create from the field, in the eyes of the customer is invaluable. Focus groups and market research have their place in planning but it does not replace the personal experience of learning on site.
Did you ask your agency these questions and their answer was no? This should not be a surprise. Most agencies consist of highly skilled creative specialists (graphic designers, copywriters, media planners, PR and social media people – okay, very few have real social media specialists) and personable generalists (most account service people). These teams are often gifted and produce good to great work by typical creative measures. One prospective client said, “The agency puts the frosting on top of the work the marketing team does.” I suggest it is important or better yet critical that the agency partners know how the cake is made and for whom in order to mix and apply the right frosting (sorry, I just felt compelled to extend this metaphor).
There is a Difference. Let us show you.
One of the greatest compliments we have received from a client was from the members of their sales team. They stated the marketing being delivered in partnership with Draper DNA was “head and shoulders above” the previous agency simply because it was helping them sell more products. This is the difference between an agency led by people that have firsthand knowledge and experience of the demands and requirements of a building product manufacturer to be successful and most other agencies.
As you consider your plans for 2022, whether it be a single project or campaign or the full plan for the new year, ask your agency team if they can match this experience and knowledge. If yes, congratulations. If no, try something new in 2022.