Should Marketers Conduct Their Own Agency Searches?


These are interesting and challenging times for Marketers.  I recently read in the Harvard Business Review that Marketing is Dead.

The article cites that CEOs have lost all patience. In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric. Ouch.

I think that clients’ greatest ally and most powerful resource in insuring their success during the careers are their agency partners and I am always surprised by how little time some marketers take in making sure that they have the right resource supporting their marketing innovation.

I help clients with agency searches.  I don’t do agency reviews every day because clients don’t fire their agencies every day although I am sure that some would want to.  I have read that over 80% of clients do their own agency searches.

I often hear about reviews that are conducted in a very superficial fashion.  Clients talk to their friends and network about some suggested agencies they should contact.  These people have no in-depth understanding of the business problems or challenges. They rarely get a copy of the RFP.  Then the clients go out and visit 3-4 agencies for an hour or 90 minutes.  Then they select the 2 or 3 finalists and have another 90 minute presentation with other team members and often make a consensus committee decision.  The whole process often takes less than a day’s work.  Not the way to pick the architect of your future success.  Would you pick your spouse that way?  You may spend almost as much time with your agency partner as you do you with your life partner during a work week.

What I have seen in the agency reviews I have conducted is that the journey brings clarity to the client’s decision making process.  Sometimes they select a partner in the end that doesn’t match their initial criteria.   If you implement an abbreviated process that journey may not provide that clarity.  Clients miss out on a lot of discovery if they try being their own guides.  That is not the way to discover new paths.

Clients face too many challenges today to have the time or the knowledge to conduct their own reviews.  Reviews take a long time to do right.  I know that firsthand. Many marketing departments are much smaller these days with fewer doing more. There is no way that clients today have the time resources to keep up with the thousands of marketing options that are out there in the U.S. today.  Then there are the demands of keeping up with all the changes in the social media space.

What I have learned during my career is that having the right resource walking at your side helps to insure your success in a very challenging world and often you need somebody with better experience and vision to make sure that you are walking side by side.

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