The Slam Down II: Dude, where’s my Agency?

With the new year upon us, you’ll no doubt be thinking about what you need to do and deliver in 2018 and that means you might be looking at the marketing agencies you’re working with to help you get the results you need over the next 12 months. Picking the right agency for you and your brand is a crucial decision, and a key thing you’ll need to consider is location.

Do you opt for convenience and work with a local agency, or do you venture further afield to find the best expertise?

We had our Head of Marketing, Russ “The Rhino” Powell, and our Sales Director, Dave “Double Dragon” Schulhof, go head-to-head on this very topic in the second of our “Slam Down” series to see what they thought.

Strap yourselves in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride:

“Being closer means you can get under their skin and REALLY understand who you’re partnering with” – Russ Powell

For all the amazing advancements in video conferencing, instant messaging, and other snazzy communication tech, there are still some fundamentals of working with an agency (and building and maintaining any sort of relationship for that matter) that are so much easier to do – and get right – face-to-face.

You’re trusting an agency to deliver results, and there are four things you need to build trust properly: similarity, reciprocity, familiarity, and proximity. Similarity you can judge from a distance, and reciprocity can be achieved without ever clapping eyes on someone. But you just can’t build real familiarity digitally (at best you end up with fake-miliarity (a dreadful new hybrid-word I just invented)), and as for proximity, you can’t really be close to someone else without being… well, CLOSE to them. If you can’t nail all four trust-building components, then you’ll struggle to build a proper relationship.

And just because you’ve got loads of tech available doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to use. Speaking to someone in person avoids the barriers that electronic communications throw up. You can judge tone properly, you can pick up body language and HOW someone is saying something (not just what they’re saying), and you can ask questions easily and unavoidably.

Things can get missed, remain unsaid or buried digitally so being able to quickly “pop” in” and see a marketing agency helps to resolve problems, ask questions, and get to the bottom of issues quickly. Plus, a face-to-face never suffers from poor connectivity or a software failure.

Being able to meet up with a search agency face-to-face regularly also helps you see who they REALLY are. That “friendly, family feel” agency you thought were quirky and wholesome may just be two blokes in a garden shed who don’t really know what they’re doing. That multi-national agency with the “scale and resources to deliver results” may be so big and so multifaceted that if you’re not at the top of their client list, you get forgotten about. Being closer and more able to meet face-to-face means you can get under the agency’s skin, get past any BS, and really understand who you’re partnering with.

Keeping things local can also give you an altruistic boost. You could be creating jobs in your local area and helping to build a highly-skilled creative community. With partners local to you, there’s always the possibility of linking-up to look at local charity or CSR initiatives together. And at the very least, it’s quick and easy for them to take you out for lunch or to the pub for some after-work drinks!

 “The biggest risk is missing out on your perfect agency partner” – Dave Schulhof

If you choose the right agency for your brand they’ll get the job done, whether they’re round the corner or on the other side of the country. While face-to-face meetings are great for building personal relationships and for collaborative thinking – they’re not necessary every day.

There are lots of tools that make communication quick and simple like video and conference calls, email and more. And these technologies are so effective in fact, that it makes global relationships not just possible, but a good option. Regular phone calls, combined with face-to-face meetings a couple of times a month, is more than enough to keep you on the same page as your agency.

So, if you’re only meeting once or twice a month and penning a suitable date in your diary, is there really such a difference between, say, a 30-minute tube journey or a 3-hour drive? Is the extra couple of hours or so worth losing a great agency? Especially given that agencies are often more than willing to do most of the travelling.

For larger brands and retailers who’ve got multiple offices across the country, they’re already travelling between sites or dialling into meetings anyway. Working with a remote agency is just like an extension of the business – and it won’t dramatically change how you already work.

The biggest risk with limiting yourself based on location is missing out on your perfect agency partner. When choosing who to work with, surely the most important question is: does your brand personality fit with their agency personality?

  • Does the agency truly understand your brand and do you trust them to represent you?
  • Do you share the same work ethic and drive to make each campaign a success?
  • Do they have a proven track record for delivering measurable results?
  • Are they experts in your area of business and do they have the necessary knowledge and experience of your sector?

Where in the country they’re based should surely be a minor consideration when it comes to finding a working relationship that actually works.

Widening your agency search gives you the pick of any agency in the UK. And it ultimately means you’re choosing an agency for the right reasons. And not just settling for convenience.

What do you think? Is location the most important factor when it comes to picking an agency, or should expertise trump everything? Can you really get to know someone from a distance? Or does distance not really exist anymore thanks to advances in communication tech? Weigh in, and let us know which side of the fence you’re on…

man standing in a boxing ring

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