What do you bring to the table?

In summary As one of my restaurant clients discovered a while back, you are what your customers want you to be.

Agencies working together can deliver results that are greater than the sum of their parts. Think of a company’s marketing output as a table set for Thanksgiving dinner. For every Butterball nailing the entree, there’s a Pepperidge Farm acing the side dish. While meeting with a business development resource the other day, we got into a discussion of my agency’s strengths. As most of you know, what you set out to be and what you become aren’t necessarily the same thing. As one of my restaurant clients discovered a while back, you are what your customers want you to be. So while we got into the business hoping to leverage one set of core skills, another emerged. Some would say being a client’s “second” agency implies a lack of status in the client’s eyes. Often, we found the opposite to be true. Over the years, we’ve worked with clients who would overwhelm us if they dropped their whole account in our lap.

However, we carved out a niche for ourselves by serving as a local resource for mid-sized to large clients who had primary agencies elsewhere in the country. This frustrated them. Communication was sporadic or slow. Meetings were few and far between. Prices were high. Projects were sneered at or ignored. We picked up the slack. We were available for meetings, we responded quickly, we gave the projects the respect they deserved (after all, to us, they were a large client). Sometimes this meant working within the parameters of a campaign established by the primary agency, but if it was good, solid work, we didn’t mind. Being good stewards of a brand is brand-building itself. Other times we had complete freedom. Overall, a win-win.

I’ve been in this business long enough to see the pendulum swing back and forth a few times: from “full service” agencies to “specialty boutiques.” Integrated marketing! Decentralized disciplines! Bundles! Bottom line–how can we make it easier for the client? Something to consider: consolidate your “big stuff” with a national agency to satisfy the egos in the C-suite, then use a nimble, local resource for projects–to work in tandem against tight deadlines and more modest budgets. Not a “production shop,” mind you, but someone who understands your objectives and believes in your brand. Just a roundabout way of saying we like being the turkey, but we’ll happily play the cranberry sauce.