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Unless it’s about getting a showbiz gig or placing your ad in a national publication, the word “agency” seems to stir up some strong… well… reservations. Self-promotion, whether at the individual or corporate level, can seem like the way to go, but when it comes to marketing are agencies good… or bad?

Quality is one thing—obviously, no one should hire a bad agency, so due diligence is highly recommended when vetting a business or marketing partner. But the question, “Is hiring an agency a good or bad thing?” might still miss the mark. The better question is, “When should I, or when should I not, hire an agency?”

The Critical Agency Equation

When—or whether—to hire an agency can be boiled down to this equation:

Agency Need Equation
© Becky Boyland

If you can summarize your goals, capabilities, and needs on a scale of 1 to 10, you can use this ratio to help you decide when to call in outside help. And remember—it’s not “all-or-nothing,” but we’ll get to that a bit later.

Business Goals

First, do you have solid business goals? Basically, are you reaching for the stars? On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated are you to make the most of your business? (Hint: your answer better be a 10!)

Bandwidth

What capacity do you have in-house to accomplish your business goals and promoting them? The best artisan in the world who can create and build everything he or she imagines still needs to get the word out—otherwise the work is a hobby, not a business. Can you both create and communicate? And on a scale of 1 to 10… how much?

Agency Need

Once you do that simple match, you’ll get the (inverse exponential) representation of your need for an agency. It’s not a straight line because, well, I’m a marketer not a mathematician. But the point of the exercise is assuming your goals are at the top of the scale, the more bandwidth you have, the less help you need. But you don’t have to decrease your goals just because you’re taxed for time and resources. You can—and should—get help. If you don’t you won’t reach your goals.

Examples

Business Equation Example 1

An ambitious company with personnel and resources to spare has little to no agency need.

Business Equation Example 2

An ambitious company with few resources has great agency need.

Business Equation Example 3

An ambitious company with a few personnel and resources could add some agency assistance.

Graphing the Need

Agency Need Graph

With this numerical relationship, the need is graphed inverse exponentially, but it’s simply a tool to help you determine where you are on the continuum, and how you might make use of an agency’s services for anything from filling the gap to managing all your marketing efforts.

Bottom Line

If you have the knowledge, experience, and staff (or the resources to add them) to manage and excel at your marketing, then an agency is not one of your needs. If you lack all of these, then an agency is likely critical and you may have to come up with creative solutions to add it into your budget—and overcome the mindset that it’s an expense (it should be a profit center, but may take some time and sacrifice to develop).

But it’s not all-or-nothing, and that’s where many companies in the “middle” miss out. Agencies can offer a variety of a la carte service or even custom plans. Don’t fall behind your competitors thinking that there are no solutions for your business situation. If you have gaps in your promotional capabilities, partner with a high-quality experienced agency so you can take your rightful place in the market!

Agencies can be a good resource for companies of all sizes. As long as the agency in question is on your side and can meet your goals, the only bad thing is not having them in your corner!

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