Marketing services firms big shake-up
With so many options for businesses today, and many courting new hires in the area of marketing, there has been quantum shift in how businesses seek out a marketing firm, and why they choose one over another. Marketing firms that have been early adopters of technology, regardless of size, are emerging as the "must-have" marketing agencies for all size businesses. The use of data to navigate customer experience is critical to developing results-driven marketing strategies, so hiring a firm has become more an analysis of tech stack than people.
Startup business marketing firm
When a company is a startup, they are usually cash-poor. Quite often, price point is everything to them and hiring an agency is just out of the question. They put their "luck" in the hands of friends of family who dabble in marketing or freelancers on various different platforms like Freelancer.com or upwork.com. Both rely on the merits of the freelancer and the un-quantifiable appraisals that are given to their potential marketing and design help. The problem lies in the fact that if the person is popular, they can rig the system with friends providing fake reviews and/or the variable idea of what is good depends on who is receiving it. The amount of times a company has come to me and said that they have a "good website" and not only do no people visit it, its design and functionality is god-awful.
Pros of a freelancer
- More eager to please
Cons of a freelancer
- Varying skill levels
- Ability to draw skills from other experts
Small business marketing firm
The great thing about small business marketing firms is that they are equipped to not only work with small businesses, but understand their challenges. Small business marketing firms often specialise so that they can take the customer on the journey. However, the downside to this is quite often people start marketing firms without having any real experience. A few freelance gigs under their belt and they sell themselves as experts. Clients then get disheartened and burnt, and swear to never ever hire a marketing firm again. They also can go rogue. How many times have you heard a company has been held to ransom with their website? I hear it at least once a week - it's really that shocking.
Pros of small business marketing firms
- Understanding of the small business environment
- Smaller teams with personalised service
- Strong in one or two areas where they typically make their name
Cons of small business marketing firms
- Systems and processes might not be in place
- They don't tend to use technology enough in the equation
- They rarely have data-driven marketers on staff
- Some go rogue and hold you to ransom
- Turnover of marketing professionals
Mid-tier marketing firms
When small business marketing firms grow and set up better structures and systems, they tend to specialise unless they have been on an acquisition mode. If you can afford a mid-tier marketing firm, they can provide you with reliability that their smaller counterparts cannot. The downside is they tend to hold staff longer (which can be good also) and they become so busy working that they are not upskilling enough to keep up with the market. They get less time to experiment and be curious, and tend to churn out the same type of work for every client. Mid-tier marketing firms can be trusted with your marketing assets because they have more to lose and companies cannot get to this stage without showing a level of professionalism and conduct that is conducive to providing a trusting relationship.
Pros of mid-tier marketing firms
- Structure of business
- When someone leaves, it won't impact your account
- Skills in-house rather than outsourced to freelancers
Cons of mid-tier marketing firms
- Tend to not be as "good" as either corporate marketing firms or those small firms that have talented individuals
- Experimental marketing is less of a focus
- Pricing can sometimes to be high
Big marketing firms
When you deal with the big end of town, there is a number of things you get. The first is bragging capabilities! "I work with Saatchi" is something I hear a lot of out in the field. Larger marketing firms usually derived from being advertising agencies or PR firms in the past and expanded through acquisition. If you have the money, then it's interesting to see what is possible and one thing is for sure, is that a big marketing firm will have a strong creative department and that alone could be a game changer for your business. They have many divisions that don't always talk to each other and they tend to hire the best talent in the industry.
Pros of a big marketing firm
- They have really good coffee, champagne and events
- Their people tend to have exceptional talents
- They do what they say they will do
- Investment in marketing technology is high (although they have probably played catch up here)
Cons of a big marketing firm
- They can break the bank - pricing is always an issue
- You may be "sold" by a senior marketer, but end up having juniors work for you
- Sometimes they are "too cool for school"
Corporate marketing strategy firms
In this category we include the big 4 accounting firms with PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte, alongside Bain, Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey. These companies know what they are doing commercially and can often take everything one step further by introducing you to clients. They are so big that they have thousands of clients all capable of helping you on your journey. These companies don't tend to be creative and you wouldn't go to them for a website, but they are equipped to ask you the right questions about where you want to take your business. They have access to a lot of research and are able to do research on your behalf. They cost an arm and a leg and sometimes you end up feeling a little underwhelmed, not because they didn't do a good job, but it's getting harder and harder to see where the value in paying the big bucks are. With technologies like Robotic Marketer developing a marketing strategy just as good as any of these guys/girls in minutes, for $3,950, they are being disrupted and their business models in this area have to change to keep up. Are they there yet? I don't think so but time will tell how good they are at playing catchup.
Pros of working with a corporate marketing strategy firm
- Nice offices (true!)
- Professional staff that always feel like they are smarter than you
- Process and methodology is second to none
- Their client base is the who's who
- Offices all over the world
Cons of working with a corporate marketing strategy firm
- They cost a lot and mostly have clients who are not entrepreneurs
- The methodolgy they use is the same one they used 3 years ago - but the world has changed
- They are not as up-to-date with technology as they could be
- People die in these jobs - so they have less new energy and ideas in the system
Depending on what stage you are in the cycle of your business, really dictates what type of agency you choose. There are pros and cons for all agencies and no one agency is perfect. The idea is to find one that you can not just live with, but that gets at least 80% right.