To Grow or Not to Grow?

blogpic_billIn today’s climate of budget cutting and hyper-budget scrutiny, you may have asked yourself: does our company need to hire a PR/ad agency?  Or not?

Let’s start with why many companies choose not to hire an agency. The biggest single reason most companies aren’t using an agency is that they believe they can do it all “in house” and better leverage existing overhead. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  With all due respect, I would suggest that it’s not.

That mindset is built on the flawed notion that you can cost cut your way to profitability—or for nonprofits, sustainability—in a tough environment.   At least that’s what accounting believes, right? Reality Check: Cost cutting is simply buying time until there are no more costs left to cut. Remember that while you are cutting, you are also reducing your capacity to grow—or even survive. The cold hard fact is that the only way any company can be sustainable over time is to grow consistently.

So how does that relate to hiring an agency? Answer: very directly.

BP_BodyGraphicLet’s agree that no one can understand your vision and company better than you. However, you know it the only way you can know it—from the inside, looking out.

That’s okay; it’s the natural order of things. What most inside marketing folks don’t know as well as an agency is the broader context of their market—the one with which they communicate every day—on behalf of multiple, diverse clients.  That means that only an agency can best translate your company virtues in terms that resonate across the broader market. This also enables agencies to be truly objective in making your case, doing so in terms that matter most to your market.

That’s especially important to those vital new prospects who have never heard of you. Your media message is often their first encounter with your brand, so it’s got to reflect the latest, best practices in PR, advertising, direct mail, web development, social media—and the rest. That takes agency specialists who bring in full-time creative and media planning skills, something that is virtually impossible to duplicate internally. The salary expenses alone of hiring an expert designer, expert copy-writer, marketing strategist and creative director would be overwhelming for most companies. But not having access to those kind of professionals would be at the expense of the quality of all materials produced. The win comes from bringing both client and agency professionals together.

When your astute client vision and excellent performance combines with your agency’s professional creativity and media skills—watch out! Now you’ve got a recipe for generating major brand buzz and actual leads—which all add up to growth. So hiring an agency is all about embracing growth.

Another agency selling point: hiring an agency lets your marketing and sales executives stay in the strategic wheelhouse, rather than getting stuck to the tar baby of tedium and tactical steps. Staying busy and being ultimately effective can be two distinctly different values. Top management looks to marketing to lead, and to sales for closing deals good marketing helps send their way.

At the same time, you should look to your agency to bring you fresh, strategic thinking to bounce against your own.  Why pursue your marketing on a trial-and-error approach when you can benefit from a range of proven strategies that have worked for other senior living providers around the nation?

As a person who has worked on both the client and agency side of the desk, I’ve come to understand that hiring that right agency is not a true expense.  Once you do find that right agency, I believe that hiring them—at some level—is really investing in your growth, your surest bet for profitability or sustainability.

However, recognizing the right agency for your company is a topic for another post.

In the meantime, think about the great brands you know and love. You can bet there was a great client/agency marriage behind every one of them.

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