Working with an Agency, Part 2: When?

When to Work with an Agency 

In our last post, we talked about why it makes sense to hire an agency for creative work. Specifically, those reasons include experience, talent, perspective and efficiency. But what kind of projects make the most sense to outsource? The simplest answer is that it depends, and an easy way to tell if you need help is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have we done this before?
  • Do we have the resources we need to do this well?
  • Does my team know the right questions to ask every step of the way?
  • Do we know what to do if something goes wrong? 

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then you should begin looking for help, and the type of agency depends on which questions you found the most revealing.

In general, there are two kinds of agencies: those that are subject matter experts and those that are industry experts. Subject matter experts specialize in or around a creative medium such as video, photography, web design, packaging, branding, app development, etc. If you answered “yes” to three out of four questions above and are simply lacking resources, you might benefit from the help of an agency that specializes in that medium. An example would be hiring out for a promotional video. Assuming your team has the resources needed to develop a strategy for and around that video, then you simply need the video team.

Industry experts, on the other hand, provide a range of services within a specific industry, such as healthcare, hospitality, grocery or retail. If you answered “no” to more than one of the questions above, you would absolutely benefit from working with an agency that specializes in your particular industry.

Consider a digital marketing campaign. While the ability to execute a campaign is a given, an industry expert can add immense value, insight and momentum to the effort. They are more likely to understand your audience, competition and positioning. An agency gives you access to writers, designers and strategists, all of whom come with industry experience and talent. They will know the language, imagery and tactics that most resonate with your audience, and which can differentiate you from your competition.

Suppose you’re launching a new retail product line. By working with a retail-savvy agency, you’ve essentially hired a partner to help guide the entire process. They’ll arrive with a list of questions, a roadmap of sorts, that outlines the various challenges and opportunities you’ll need to prepare for with their help. Such an agency will know the retail standards and launch process that will influence your product packaging, POP and eCommerce media.

Such insight and experience can save valuable time and expense by avoiding costly detours, such as developing packaging that doesn’t communicate effectively in an online environment or won’t be legible from its merchandising position in the store. You’ll want to know how many and what kind of imagery, video and content your product needs to produce demand and ensure consumer satisfaction. An agency will be your interpreter and guide you through the print process, speaking the language of substrates, tolerances, die lines and approvals. All the while, an agency can equip you with tools to sell your product, first to the retail merchant and then to the consumer.

The abilities of an agency may sound enormous and expensive, but it’s important to understand that agencies often work together. A boutique agency will no doubt recommend you to an industry expert if you have a project that exceeds their expertise, while a full-service industry agency will have subject matter experts that they work with routinely. More often than not, these inter-agency partnerships cost less to the client than if the client contracted with each source uniquely. The reason for this is that partner familiarity, ease of communication, and experience save everyone time and eliminate mistakes.

Working with an agency can almost always add efficiency, creativity and effectiveness to a project. In our next blog, and the final of this series, we’ll share best practices on getting the most out of that partnership. Come back next week for Part 3 in our series “How to Work with an Agency”.


Missed Part 1 of the “Working with an Agency” series? Click to jump back and answer the question “Why Work with an Agency”.




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