By Richard Stanton, co-founder, Wake The Bear
When businesses are young and still establishing their processes, adding marketing and media planning to the mix can be overwhelming for someone who is already stretched thin fulfilling several different roles. With such a vast menu of marketing options available, from creative and media via social, digital, PR and experiential, it takes a lot of time to unpack where the focus needs to be at any given point. To anyone without first hand experience of marketing it can be daunting and, in the absence of an impartial expert to turn to, potentially very expensive.
Many people in this position will opt to appoint a famous name or holding company as a way to anchor their decision in something familiar, if not understood. A company with decades of heritage – or maybe just a high Google search ranking – feels like the safest choice. And I can’t say I blame them.
These entrepreneurs are being warned of the ‘new economy’, lectured on the concept of recession-proof marketing, and being assured that only a vast, long-established agency can offer them the experience of working with established brands, as well as the deals and price points they will need in order to be able to afford the level of advertising they will require.
Start-ups and scale-ups generally run on a small staff as they get established, which means many of the team have broad roles and responsibilities with little time to fulfil everything on their to do. Choosing a big media agency, with a corresponding big reputation and well-established clients, is a short-cut to a safe option and the ‘right’ choice.
However, the reality is that driving marginal gains, or even just maintaining the status quo, for well established businesses is very different to the marketing requirements of a scale-up business. That requires a specialism that only those with considerable experience of the start-up landscape can provide.
Agility remains one of the most fundamental requirements – and biggest opportunities – for any growth business for whom it is critical they are flexible enough to roll with both internal and external forces. I strongly believe that generalist agencies have neither the specialism nor experience to navigate the changes required at an effective rate for the scale up businesses of tomorrow.
But aside from the business and financial implications that the choice of partner will bring, one often overlooked but crucial benefit of sticking with a specialist is the emotional support this type of agency brings.
The talent you will find at an agency that exists solely to work with growing businesses and divisions – start ups and scale-ups alike – is unique. These people are in it for the long haul.
They are emotionally invested in every step of their brand’s journey. They live and breathe the business and ride the rollercoaster alongside the client. They take calls at 2am. They talk founders out of panic. They reassure, comfort and support. Each business they work on may as well be their own for all the energy they give it.
Because they know from experience that what their client is embarking on isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. They know the founder or MD has a lot invested in the business – both financial and emotional – and that responsibility sits heavy on their shoulders.
Networks can still claim they have the best market rates, and perhaps when you really drill down they do, but those margins rapidly lose significance when you consider the quality and depth of service that a specialist agency can deliver to a scale-up brand.