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Lean Methodology

Are Agencies Too Proud to Ask For Help?

Every agency on the planet shares a common belief that most, if not all, companies are unequipped to effectively handle every aspect of their business. In order to be as effective as possible, they need agencies to fill in the gaps with top-flight experts. After all, this is the principle reason agencies exist.

We tell companies they will lose years, never getting the results they want from inbound marketing if they decide to do it themselves. Yet, when an inbound marketing agency recognizes the need to be able to design a top-shelf website, do they work with another agency? Probably not. Instead, they'll make the same mistake they try to coach their clients to never make. They'll add one or two hires and add a whole new area of specialization to their industry.

When faced with gaps in our own companies, egos often get in the way, causing us to be highly resistant of collaborating with other agencies. Despite all our preaching to the contrary, when it comes to our own companies, the majority of agencies just don't play well with others.

Our Agency Has Gaps. So Does Yours. 

Agencies have a tendency to be intellectually dishonest in their resistance to play in another company's sandbox. Perhaps it's out of fear of looking incapable, or too small on their own. Yet, this is exactly what we all ask our customers to do: admit they are too small, have gaps in their expertise, and need the help from external experts.

The agency model is effective primarily because it allows companies to go deep into areas where their business expertise is limited. Hiring an agency is the most efficient way for companies to fill in the gaps where they are under-equipped. 

Just like any other business, agencies also have gaps in their expertise. In an ideal world, agencies would provide more value to their clients by partnering with other agencies who are strong where they are weak, and vice versa. If we could be honest, we would admit that most agencies need agencies too. (Tweet This)

Full-Service Agencies vs. Specialists

Buying practices are changing for every industry in the world, including agency services. In times past, businesses needed a full-service agency to show them where they were lacking expertise, and then provide that expertise. 

Today, companies are smarter and have access to more information and, for the most part, know exactly where they need help. Because of this, they no longer seek do-it-all providers, instead they seek out the experts to fill in specific gaps in their business. This information revolution has resulted in companies simply no wanting to hire full-service agencies anymore. 

Marketing ourselves as 'full-service' agencies is basically saying we’re not the master of anything. Agencies who try to 'do it all' end up selling themselves short, and their clients view them as a jack of all trades but masters of none. While a jack-of-all trades may make a good all-around employee, when hiring an agency, companies want the assurance of working with true experts. 

Whether we like it or not, we're living in the age of specialization. The competition between agencies is so fierce, delivering sub-par results will only condemn your agency for failure. The problem with trying to do everything is it results in average results, with no special value in any area. At Lean Labs, we have a saying we use often, “good enough is no longer good enough.” This ideal resonates with our clients; they don't want to pay good money to get mediocre results. In order to impress our customers, we have to provide remarkable value in everything we deliver.

Embracing The Gaps In Our Own Capabilities

Specializing on what you can knock out of the park every time is the key to being a remarkable agency. But, when you come in contact with companies that have needs outside of your specialty, you'll naturally have gaps in your expertise. It's at this inevitable decision point where your agency will set itself apart.

You'll either turn away business or you'll provide the service anyway knowing you don't have the capability to deliver stellar results in this area. If you turn business away, it's revenue walking out the door. This is a difficult choice for any agency. If you decide to provide the service, you're lowering the bar across the board for the quality of work associated with your brand.

Consider why you'll never see an oral surgeon advertising for deals on LASIK eye surgery. And, if you ever did see a dentist claiming to work on your eyes too, you probably wouldn't even go to him for dental work.  

Consider who you would rather hire:

  • A full-service agency who claims to do everything.
  • An agency known for being excellent in the very areas you need help with.

Too many agencies believe the easiest way to grow is to add more services. Bringing on work outside your real area of expertise usually means going over budget, and longer on time. 

Another major problem in taking everything in-house is, once you add a design team you have the same scalability issues every other agency has. You absolutely have to take on a certain number of projects to cover costs. For agency owners who are trying to grow their agency for more time freedom will discover they are only digging the hole deeper. In short, adding services for which you're not an expert simply to grow your agency is one of the worst you can make.

The best thing you could possibly do for your customers, in this instance, is to bring in other artists who will compliment your works of art. It's much better than asking your email marketing specialist to do a social media campaign, or worse, quickly hiring a few designers or developers to jump in and fill the gaps.

Putting the Client First

Rather than trying to hide our own need for expert help, we should seek out partnerships with experts who compliment our specializations. At Lean Labs, we don't try to white-label our collaboration with other agencies. Instead, we find those we would be proud to work with and are transparent with our clients.

Delivering the highest quality results to our clients should be the first, and foremost, pursuit. If you can deliver better results by partnering with another customer-focused agency, it would be in your clients best interest to foster such collaborations.

When you're considering a collaboration with another agency, ask yourself if it will benefit the client. If yes, you owe it to your client to do it. It will bring better deliverables for the client, give your agency another pool of expertise to draw from, and result in a boost to your reputation for quality.

A properly structured collaboration is profitable for everyone. And yes, agencies, at Lean Labs, we're open to collaborating with you.

Written by Kevin Barber / October 16, 2014

is the Founder & Director of Lean Labs. He has over a decade of professional experience in Internet Marketing and his top skill is surrounding himself with passionate designers, developers, and inbound marketers.

Kevin has been married 10 years, the father of 3, and he recently relocated to Costa Rica. He enjoys reading professional development books, cycling and motorcycling. Connect with Kevin on Linked In.

Articles by Kevin Barber