Tip 5 - Advice for agencies looking for an edge - A clients perspective


While it might be tempting to take on a client's entire business, there's no way one agency can do everything well. 

Brands marketers have a way of sorting things out. It doesn't take long to see through the full service makeup that agencies put on these days. Many excellent botique firms tend to lose sight of what they are best at in a quest to be bigger... but not better. Too many agencies, in trying to be all things to all marketers, are getting bogged down and doing a disservice to themselves and their clients. 

5. There’s no such thing as full service. Just like major department stores have felt pressure from specialty retailers who line mall corridors between the giant anchor tenants, so have full-service agencies. They feel the pressure from boutique service providers in the marketing world.

Fragmentation and specialization is a reality and it’s a strategic advantage to the client who masters the skill required to hire and manage the boutiques. I’m wary of large firms who hang a “we do it all” banner above their door. I simply don’t believe that a single firm can be the best at everything. For that matter, who can?

Agencies need to remember their roots and rediscover their core competencies. Focus on your strengths and know your weaknesses. For example, some great creative shops have bolstered their offerings by adding media management, public relations, event management and direct marketing. If that wasn’t enough, now they‘re attempting social engagement in the online and offline space. By trying to do it all, and scoop up all the money that’s on the table, full service agencies easily can become viewed as mediocre and greedy.

I subscribe to a different philosophy—one that has served me well for nearly three decades. I choose to hire the best of each discipline for the marketing services we require. At PEMCO, we currently work on an on-going basis with individual firms that focus on consumer research, brand development and creative, media buying, public relations, graphic design, direct mail management, social engagement strategy and social media implementation. I suppose it might be easier to put it all under one roof, but I’m confident it wouldn’t be as beneficial.

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  • Patricia Belyea
    Jan. 30, 2012
    Well, of course, I like your approach Rod because our firm gets to be one of your chosen! Our boutique studio could never offer PEMCO full-service but we do have creative services like none other. THANKS.
  • Imelda Dulcich
    Jan. 30, 2012
    This is so true Rod. I'm a big believer in going to the expert in a field - and having confidence that that person or firm will do the best job in that particular area. I'm wary of businesses which attempt to bolster their business by adding on additional areas in which they've dabbled. There is nothing wrong in being great in a particular area - and nodding your head or waving your hand to another individual or group to bring them in on a project. Great post.

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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