Hiring One Or More Agencies. What’s the Case?

Feb 10, 2023

This article isn’t about recession or inflation or how fortune favors the bold (which it does, by the way.) [link to Forbes piece] Maybe, it’s about all three. When meeting with big brands, tech upstarts and disruptors all trying to grow rapidly, the conversation always starts with needs.   

They’ll start by saying, “We need a total refresh of our communications strategy. It’s a brave new world, and we’re not in it. We have digital marketing, public relations and creative needs. We want to talk to you about digital marketing.”  

We’ll reply with, “Great. We can do that.”  

Then they’ll add, “We are talking to different firms for all three areas.”  

And we’ll politely respond, “Ok, that’s an option.”  

I’m not going to suggest that all these conversations lead to companies hiring us to be their growth marketing agency, public relations firm, and creative shop, but it does happen. And when it does, we are not surprised. (Well, we are a little surprised when it’s a Fortune 1000 company.) Admittedly, in these situations, we usually aren’t the only agency on the team; however, we may be the only one providing three services.  

 Now, you may be wondering: 

  1. Can a single agency be effective at digital marketing, public relations and creative?  
  2. Wouldn’t a company want firms dedicated to a single area of expertise? 
  3. If a firm demonstrates it can do all three, what are the benefits of a “single-shop solution?” 

First, let’s just clarify that, yes, a single agency can be effective in all three areas. The question we ponder is, why don’t other agencies see the incredible value of offering collective expertise under one roof? True, some agencies have multiple disciplines (at least on their website), and yet one of them is always an under-appreciated stepchild. The simple reason is that, like anything, it takes more on all fronts.   

Philosophically, the agency’s leadership must believe that the objective and the situation determine which discipline should take the lead. If they don’t, their strategy will be prejudiced, and they risk underdelivering. There also needs to be an equitable investment in talent, training and tech across all disciplines. So, yes, a single agency can be great at growth marketing, public relations and creative if, and only if, they have invested in all three equally.  

In terms of the benefits of a single shop, the signs should be apparent during the pitch. Ideas will be integrated. Conversations will be global in terms of marketing, not siloed around one strategy, while other team members have separate conversations with the other agencies. Walls do not exist because the company has removed territories.   

The internal team’s work is simplified. There’s one integrated team of seven instead of three independent teams of three or four. Meetings can be twice a month versus six. Emails and Slacks are down 40-50%. Project management exists on a single platform instead of spread across several. And then there’s the cost. No, a good company won’t allow it to be three times the cost, but you can expect it to be 20-30 percent higher. There are simply no economies of scale. Each agency has its profit formulas.  

Have we seen multiple agencies work? Yes. Do we have clients where we are one agency of several? Yes. If, however, the current financial times have left you short on budget, with reduced internal resources, yet ambitious performance goals, we say keep an open mind to the single-shop solution