All right. So everyone knows Steve Jobs was an innovator… The Mac. The iPhone. Up to 40,000 digital songs held in your hand. We could go on and on.
Not everyone can be him (nor Apple). Nor needs to be. But his attitude of ‘do something good… but figure out what’s next’ is a shared motivation that all marketing agency owners have at heart. Or they’d be doing something else.
The result?: Big ideas. Strategy. Innovation.
Do something good… but figure out what’s next.
The Water-cooler Buzz
Case in point, PwC (previously PricewaterhouseCoopers) reports that 60 percent of C-suite executives cite digital transformation as their number one growth driver in 2022. They add that there are even tax incentives for pursuing R&D. And they say digital capability is at the heart of execution, whether it’s increasing supply chain resilience, or rolling out new products and services.1
It’s innovation. And a hallmark of that, of course, is intelligence… as in intellectual property. Agency owners have to not only create IP but protect it, too.
That last point is a concern today because agencies are commonly partnering together to serve clients better. And clients, in turn, are picking their agencies like that anyway… one for branding, one for paid media, one for SaaS and web development, etc.
Or, as the Forbes agency panel confirms: ‘…with so many distinct marketing channels and types of content available in today’s digital world, it’s challenging for a single agency to provide every service a client might need… these days, businesses often work with multiple agency partners at once.’ 2
So, partners it is. But having partners can cause some consternation over privacy and security issues, and protecting one’s intelligence.
Legal + Creative
Susan Toerek is all too familiar with that concern. She is an intellectual property and marketing law attorney, with a national firm based in Cleveland: Legal + Creative. She helps marketing agencies protect their intelligence and it is not just reserved for courts and copyrights.
She is a terrific source of information and hosts a regular podcast, The Innovative Agency, which is dedicated to an extensive array of related subject matter.
In Episode 181, How to White Label as Well as Monetize Your Intellectual Property, there’s a terrific focus on partnering, privacy and professionalism. She underscores that clients are indeed hiring agencies based on their “niched” or otherwise specialized skill sets (e.g., branding, paid media, development). And as a result, an added focus in the client’s RFP process is screening those agencies to ensure they can all play nicely together in the sandbox.
The discussion goes on and emphasizes that when there’s a relationship between agencies, working as true partners versus vendors is key. Bring the partner into any discussion early. Let them bring their subject matter expertise to leadership and the end-client right from the onset. Build trust and confidence.
When the partners are both agencies of one specialty or another, they realize that instead of being competitors, they’re co-opters. They mutually understand the pain points agencies have and what it takes to succeed… to make life easier and make a profit while doing it.
Neither wins unless they both win. It’s not about stealing. If there’s a divorce, the other one isn’t going to take the dog.
It wouldn’t make any sense. First, no client wants their agencies in a tail-biting competition. There’s work to do! And no one could get away with it anyway. If any particular partner is a generally well-established respected member of the marketing-world peer group, they didn’t get there by usurping relationships.
Plus, consider just one of the types of partners discussed here… development, for example. Maybe the project in play is SaaS. A unique digital agency management tool that’s being created. Intellectual Property. The partner that helps the agency develop that tool is not only not going to steal it, they’re going to bring all the documentation and paperwork and legal backing that secures it for the agency.
IP. One gets the job. The other gets the tool. It’s a win-win.
So the result is that instead of having to staff up to be some mega-mix that can do everything, agencies can instead focus on their strengths. And develop new strengths. They optimize AGI by not being over-staffed and over-infrastructured. And through their partners, they have access to whatever talent is in demand at any given time… turn it on, turn it off… as needed.
It’s not competition. But cooperative resources. Playing nice in the sandbox. It opens the door to more innovation. To more IP. While still respecting the privacy of others in your space.
There should be a song, ‘If you’re happy and you know it keep it to yourself and let dad sleep.
- PwC Pulse Survey, “Pulse Survey of C-suite executives,” https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/pulse-survey/executive-views-2022.html, 2022.
- Expert Panel, “16 Ways Companies Can Find Success With Multiple Agency Partners” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2022/08/04/16-ways-companies-can-find-success-with-multiple-agency-partners/?sh=1097d5837a81, August 4, 2022.