I have been on receiving end of pitches from agencies for the good part of my career in corporate America. I recognize that I do not represent the average marketer on the inside. Heck, I think that using the word average to describe me in any fashion would not put the word to its intended use. Not being average has been an advantage at times and a big liability in some circumstances.
As I am preparing to work on my presentation for the fabulous Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) Annual Summit on October 1, a few thoughts are starting to take form. [many thanks to Tim Brunelle for inviting me to speak]
Having this identity online and having been passionate about the profession over the years, while at the same time pursuing jobs on the client side, have presented some challenges. There are days when it is pretty hard to live with yourself - to follow your own advice. Especially when you are called to lead others who are not directly part of your organization. You can be diplomatic all you want, eventually you will ruffle some feathers, if ever so gently.
Coupled with some very ingrained myths about the marketer on the inside, things can get quite interesting. The situations that develop during pitches and in the actual work done in (more or less) collaboration with agencies are an indication that this is a conversation worth having.
Myth: "they don't get it"
Marketers are curious professionals. You cannot make assumptions that just because they work for a company, they are not participating, learning, experimenting, teaching, executing outside the walls of the organization.
Many organizations are encouraging these activities because they see the benefits of having someone on board who is learning in first person. Therefore, approach with this in mind. You may be talking to someone who knows more than you do about social media, for example.
Myth: "they're looking just for an idea"
These days we are all about measurable marketing. What we're really looking for is an idea with a solid execution attached to it. Market-driven, honest and real in language and representation. I've called this right size marketing.
What that entails for you is: we will go the extra step to ensure that your business succeeds by partnering with you. We want to find the right value proposition and unlock that value to your customers. We will also work efficiently with you on your challenges. There is no B team, you get the "A" team and all the attention and care your business deserves.
Myth: "they will take boilerplate"
Au contraire, we insist that your idea and execution be grounded in our business, and not your other case studies. "Save as" will not work. Since we're talking about past successes, let's make sure your work wins us customers, not awards for you. It has to be said.
Along with measurable, we are used to doing research as a way of testing opinions with those that really count - our customers' and prospects. There are many more options both for quantitative and qualitative work, so hopefully you are familiar with those.
Myth: "it will take a long time"
Surprisingly, we can move really fast when the right brief gets into our hands. The business case leaps off the page and into the hearts and minds of those who need to be in the loop. I agree that in some cases the client does not make the business problem very clear.
Here we're talking about a marketer who can think and has a grounding - and a stake - in the business. Quite simply, engagement needs to lead to business results. And yes, I am aware that sometimes agencies are asked to accomplish too many things with just one marketing vehicle.
Myth: "they will give us everything"
Honestly, let's not pitch for more until you deliver on what you were hired to do. These days the ability to do more comes after we've reached our goals in one area. The budget is no longer a big lump sum.
It becomes much easier to justify expansion in an area or a test run in another when you've had a win. Getting an account may be a lot of work, but doing the work to keep it is critical. Often it entails great communication skills and the desire to truly contribute to your client's success.
Many marketers on the client side are looking for the right kind of agency. I am discovering many professionals on the agency side who are a pleasure to deal with. Are agencies paying attention to talent? I'm talking about individuals in planning, account management, and creative direction. I realize they are not necessarily the people who run offices and thus set the tone for the agency. You should pay attention nonetheless, they are the ones keeping the account by delivering on the work.
Consider this - when marketers on the inside can think, you are better off following the lead of your best talent. It will be good for the business of your office, and it will make you look good with headquarters. Yes, even agencies have bureaucracies that sometimes lead to the path of least resistance. Resist you must. For the good of the client and for your own good.