Agencies Should Not Be Islands

By | April 15, 2013
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Pete GerritsenThis is a guest post by Peter Gerritsen (@TaanNews), president of the Transworld Advertising Agency Network. TAAN is one of the oldest, largest and most successful networks of carefully selected independent advertising and communications agencies. It has 51 member agencies that operate in 32 different countries.

Every agency must use a combination of outsourcing, cooperation, collaboration and partnerships to deliver superior solutions for clients. If you are not hip-deep in these relationships, you will be left behind. Going it alone is a big mistake.

Gone are the days of the traditional, full-service agency. Every time I view the website of an agency and see the term "full service," I involuntarily wince.

No agency has ever been truly full service. We have all outsourced portions of our work. It is part of who we are. Agencies act as intermediaries between clients and suppliers. Therefore, creating a talent pool outside the agency has always been part of our jobs.

Today, your agency must focus on the true value it brings. Your core expertise is what matters to clients—not your size and breadth. If you are really good at what you do, then client contracts become an investment in the best opportunity for companies to achieve tangible results. 

Note: For more on agency branding and positioning, check out experts Tim Williams (@timwilliamsicg) from Ignition Consulting Group and Blair Enns (@blairenns) from Win Without Pitching.

Build through External Resources

Identify the best external resources you can find. Off-load internal capabilities that are not core to your expertise. Retain the ones that support your leadership position. Then, develop solid working relationships with other experts to accomplish the tasks required.

The Resource Hierarchy

To do this, build multiple relationships with different degrees of proximity to your core areas of expertise. 

  • Outsourcing is a vendor relationship. Often freelancers, these individuals perform specific tasks as dictated by straight-forward directions. 
  • Cooperative resources are when you exchange services in a way that is mutually beneficial for both parties.
  • Collaboration partners openly share details beyond the specifics of the work and exchange ideas. For example, you may share revenue generated.
  • Internal experts are your full-time staff. They are the team and leaders who represent your proof of expertise.

In chapter two of his book, The Marketing Agency Blueprint, Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) shares helpful tips for evaluating and building these external resources.

A Resource Network

Another avenue to explore when building external resources is membership in agency networks of independent firms. While there are many excellent networks to consider, Taan Worldwide is a great example.

Taan Worldwide is built around the idea of sharing information, insight and knowledge among its global members. The belief is that openly exchanging innovations and failures with fellow members will make us all better.

The network consists of more than 50 independent communications firms—all with specific industry, category, audience and capability expertise. Because members must be vetted, voted into membership, and actively participate, there is a strong bond of trust between equals, not found in other kinds of organizations.

There are a number of similar networks. Each has its unique qualities. What matters is that you find the best fit for your agency.

To Wrap It Up:

  • No agency is a full-service agency.
  • Be the expert that your clients need.
  • Build a trusted network of external resources.
  • Stay active and engaged through shared insights that benefit partners.

Your island agency needs plenty of bridges to connect you to the rest of the world. Get out there, and start building.