The biggest companies in the world with the largest marketing budgets all have agencies and outside firms they leverage to strategize as well as execute their marketing plans. All these organizations recognize the value of outside counsel and perspective with their marketing and accept that someone from the outside may be able to do something better than they could internally. I would submit that small and medium-sized businesses need to use this model even more since it can add scale without building a high-cost marketing infrastructure and give them skill beyond their ability to hire and manage at the level they may actually need.
Regardless of the size of your company, your marketing budget or your headcount evaluate your potential marketing partners with these parameters to make sure you build the network you need to maximize your effectiveness:
- Look for strength where you are weak - whether it's creative, support or analytics look for partners that add muscle to your department's service. Most marketing organizations are not great at everything - think about the things you need the most help with and find partners that close them quickly.
- Make sure you match marketing philosophies - the worst kind of partnership you can get into is one that is one with an agency or firm that looks at marketing through a different lens than you do. It's great to compliment your strategies with other concepts but if there isn't a common understanding it will hurt the ability for the relationship to grow effectively.
- Understand where you are on the maturity scale - some organizations are taken in by the idea of working with large agencies and all they have to offer but you should ask yourself if your company is really ready for that level of relationship and the cost that goes along with it. Spending a premium on a big-time agency when your company isn't ready to capitalize on it is a sure fire way to invert the return on your marketing investments.
- See how it will help you run lean - agencies and outside firms can help you scale the size of your service without having to add a lot of fixed costs to your departments. Pinpointing those areas and getting partners to support you will help you do more with less and start the conversation about adding to your teams and budgets down the road.
- Think of the short and long-term - everyone should look at partnership from both perspectives. As your company grows and as your marketing team matures you may outgrow some partners. Other partners will pull your growth along and add depth and experience to your company at a faster rate than you can do internally. Find the balance and adjust as needed with directed intent.
Regardless of your size or scale you should look to find marketing partners that match you and your organization's needs. If you find the right fits you can make your marketing department much more effective much faster than you would expect.