A question that often comes up from Marketers looking for new marketing agencies.

Do we look for one firm that can do it all, or should we get firms that specialize in particular areas (like digital) so we have a best in breed representing our business?

I’m not copping out here…but the answer is, “it depends”.

Depends on a number of things.

I would say that using a best in class approach is the right way to go if:

  1. Your business relies a lot on the success of whatever platform you’re considering a specialist agency for.  If consumers get a lot of their information about your business from the web and will make decisions based on intel they glean from different resources in the digital space (as an example), you might want to find an agency that can effectively help you navigate the space appropriately.
  2. Your competitors are getting more aggressive in using alternate platforms to build their business.  If a competitor of yours has been getting some great press of late and it appears that the industry is abuzz about their business, you might want to look to dial up your own PR efforts as an example.
  3. You believe that dialing up efforts in a specific area is critical to the long term success of your business or your brand.  If all you’re looking for is a web makeover (as an example), getting a digital only firm to manage this isn’t going to get you to that much better of a place than using a smart full service firm that is well equipped to manage your digital needs.
  4. You have the time to manage two firms.  I’ve seen marketers go mad trying to keep multiple firms “in line” and on brand.  You can let one firm “manage” the other, but even with that, you’ll need to keep an eye on the house to make sure they’re playing nice.  Remember, these are businesses and the more revenue they can get, the happier they’ll be.

If you’re simply looking to play more effectively in the space and you need a firm that can help you navigate it strategically, and measure its effectiveness better than what you’ve been doing, and bring new ideas to the table, you can do it with a solid full service marketing agency.

Key is looking for the right firm.

Not all full service agencies are built the same way in specialty spaces – particularly in the digital and social space.

When looking at firms, ask them for examples of work they’ve done that mirror your challenges.

Ask them for success metrics.

Ask them to tell you what their firm’s bench looks like in the space you’re looking to beef up.

Do they have a “strategic partnership”?  If so, how strategic is it and how much do they really partner?  Who leads?  The lead agency or the “partner”?

So bottom line…no easy task either way you’re looking at it.

Just make sure you’re doing it for all the right reasons and not because