As much as you may like to think you’re the only client on your agency’s roster, in reality it’s a very good thing for you that you’re not. Asking what your agency is working on for their other clients will give you a sense of untapped creative.
One of the reasons that clients hire agencies in the first place is to get an outside perspective on their marketing. But, over time you may fall into a routine of doing the same types of projects and no longer think of your agency as an outsider (that’s a good thing actually). Especially if you’ve been working together for awhile, it’s good to get a refresher on your agency’s capabilities. Ask your account manager what else they’re doing for other clients.
If your account is large enough that you have a dedicated account team, ask what the other account teams in the agency are working on. Perhaps your agency has made a new hire that expands their capabilities. Maybe your agency has won an award for work they’ve done, or there’s a new production technique available that they’ve tried out with another account. All of these things are opportunities for you and your company’s marketing.
But why worry about your agency’s other business in the first place?
As a marketing manager, you can benefit from the work your agency does for their other clients. This sort of cross-pollination of ideas is one of the “free” benefits to you as a client. Full-service marketing firms are tremendous problem solvers. Creative briefs always start with a problem or challenge to be overcome, as such your agency is purpose-built to solve them. Creative often takes center stage for this, but supporting that are the wealth of other resources at your agency’s disposal. Some examples include:
- Vendor partners that can print and ship collateral materials, sometimes under astoundingly short deadlines.
- Media reps that will extend ad deadlines.
- Photographers or videographers to suit your style.
- Coding resources from a custom script to full-blown app development.
- A supplier capable of delivering custom giveaways for a key event.
- Freelance creatives your agency has vetted that can whip up a custom illustration, write a tricky headline, or do a Jack Nicholson impersonation for a voiceover.
All of these resources and more, fall in line with the day-to-day operations of a robust agency. Furthermore, to stay competitive, your agency should always be pushing the limits and trying new tactics (while staying firmly grounded in what works) to yield the best results. Limits are pushed on all accounts, some more than others. You may be unaware of how you fit in with the mix of your agency’s overall work, but rest assured, even if you are the 800 lbs. gorilla in the room for your agency, there are still benefits in finding out what else they’re working on.
Here’s why: your marketing challenges may not be so different from those of your agency’s other clients.
This means that simply by asking what else your agency is working on, you may gain insight into your needs from all of the creative work and strategy that other clients have paid them for. If your agency works with their other clients solving challenges similar to yours, you’ll have concrete examples of how you might tackle them in your industry. Inflection points are many and varied, but perhaps you’re expanding into new markets and are now faced with needs for new marketing services. Or leadership attitudes at your company may have changed bringing about new budget allocations to different parts of your marketing mix. Oftentimes simply hearing first hand solutions may ignite ideas for your existing business that hadn’t occurred to you previously. Even if nothing immediate comes of it, you should have a better understanding of your agency’s overall creative health, resources and strategic planning abilities to keep in mind for future projects. In the process you may be able to restore some of that outside perspective by widening the circle of inclusion within the agency.
When it comes down to it, you need to ask and provide a gentle nudge if needed. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that many full-service marketing agencies suffer from the “cobblers kids have no shoes” syndrome and do a terrible job of self-promotion. So, as a client you may be unaware of creative offerings you’re not using unless you ask. Your account manager may also be the protective type that wants to maintain the status quo and thus they shield you from what the rest of the agency is working on. I’ve worked with account managers that don’t want their clients to perceive them as always selling, so they back off from suggesting services their clients aren’t asking for. Therefore, it may be up to you to ask if the agency doesn’t offer. I’m certain the time will be well spent.