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consulting and creative group planning at a table

What should you look for in a marketing agency? Clever marketing content? Flashy campaigns? Sure, that all sounds great on the surface. But what do you get underneath? The best agencies become your long-term strategic partner. They take the time to uncover your organization’s challenges and concerns, understand your business goals, and review your business objectives to ensure they get incorporated into end deliverables.

It’s possible to achieve your goals with any agency if you work hard enough, but you thrive with the ones who deliver high-performing solutions developed by strategists and expert tacticians. Such agencies take on an advisory role, helping you articulate how your marketing programs should be integrated as part of your entire organization, and translate how your business objectives turn into quality execution.

The evolution of marketing
The days of marketing in a silo are over. The total integration of marketing, operations, sales, finance, and other departments is essential to the success of a company. The more each of the different departments work in sync, the more effective each department becomes—while also ensuring that marketing can effectively do its job. Marketing and communications is no longer just a function of the “marketing team.” Every department and team member wears at least one marketing hat at any given moment. If not–they should be.

Companies often engage consulting and agency support separately. Unless the two firms are working together as part of a larger stakeholder team, the connection between business strategy and marketing execution can get lost. What companies can benefit from is a single firm that brings a blend of consulting expertise and the capabilities of a full-scale marketing agency. But this is not something you can find in a single “Swiss Army knife” of resources. So then, how do you get what you need?

Look for the strategic partner who helps you execute – the consulting agency
The concept is not new, yet true hybrids are not necessarily advertised as such. A hybrid consulting agency is where the best practices of strategic consulting converge with the creativity and expertise of writers, designers, and media pros to create a team uniquely capable of driving client success. In pooling their talents together, they extend the depth perception of everyone, enabling the collective group to come in and contribute to developing strategies that align with their customer’s objectives and offer the best roadmap for success. Here are three qualities to consider as you look for the right partner, or push your current agency to function more as a hybrid.

  • True business partnership. Marketing is a continuum that evolves as your customers and products evolve. The most efficient marketing agency partner will know where your business came from, where it’s going, and how to help you get there. The ones that focus on ROI make it a single issue whereas successful hybrids create ROI as a by-product of aligning your goals to your actions.
    • What to look for: Rather than a partner fulfilling a specific marketing need, look for one who can use marketing to help solve your business needs over time and through changes in your products and customers.
  • Resourcing magic. Consultancies often rely on a traditional staff augmentation model. Agencies typically use a team model comprised of multiple specialists. Both resourcing approaches have their benefits and disadvantages. In the consulting model, you might find a very well-rounded resource, but chances are you will still have a skill gap. In the agency model, you might get broad skillset coverage, but when you have too many specialists (cooks in the kitchen), teams can lose their ability to go deep and provide that consultative layer of support.
    • What to look for: Focus on finding a team that includes designated consulting resources, who can learn and support your business over time, and creative and specialist resources who can be leveraged when moving from planning to execution.
  • Creative backed by business acumen. Business impact trumps that of marketing. The best agencies ask to review your business plan before starting their work. They get their ducks in a row, establishing a foundation that lets consultants and creatives thrive, helping you more easily reach your objectives.
    • What to look for: Work with a partner that seeks to understand your business first. Embedding your marketing strategies in the knowledge of your customers and business needs/objectives will increase the likelihood of landing the right strategy at the right time, with a higher ROI and greater impact.

The best marketing partners combine their curiosity to develop a deep understanding of your business, industry, and customers with the business savvy to help craft strategies that extend beyond marketing impact. Look for the partner who can stay the course with you year over year, expanding capabilities and services to continually evolve with you.


Also see: Are you connecting with your customers?

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