Two articles last year in Fast Company underscored a trend in marketing agencies that has become more of a standard. That is, the following stats may not have a lot of shock value:
- Agencies are running leaner and finding great success (noting that Highdive in Chicago has a whopping 50 Super Bowl ads under its belt, but just a 30-person staff)1.
- And agencies are operating with remote employees and accepting that the future of work may look more and more remote as time goes on, pandemic or not (84% of Gen Z job seekers are expecting work to be remote)2.
OK, those are two really finite examples—not everyone does Super Bowl ads and 10-year-olds who make up at least part of Gen Z aren’t on the job hunt just yet. Still, the days of bloat are over. Not everyone and everything is in-house nor needs to be.
In fact, the great majority of marketing agencies—83 percent—report that they engage with partners to support client work beyond their scope or capacity.*
That’s according to the 343 agency respondents of the international Agency Audit Survey 2022. And for agencies that partner with a web-development outsource, about three-quarters say they white-label the relationship.*
The great majority of agencies engage outside partners
(And about 3/4ths white label web-dev relationships)
In contrast to having the whole web-development works under one roof, outsourcing turns the fixed cost of otherwise salaried employees into variable pass-along costs. Optimizing annualized gross income and ROI while providing more than what most in-house teams ever could (barring an agency with full-blown DevOps):
- Web-dev outsource partners define scope and direction
- Serve as subject-matter experts (asking and answering the tough questions)
- Provide fully customized development capabilities and QA, going well beyond what a plug-in or web-builder could ever do
However, at some point, all of that outsourced expertise is going to have to talk directly to the client and that can cause some consternation among agency owners. Will we lose our identity if we let it slip that we partner? Will we appear smaller than we want to appear?
Frankly, the partner resource should simply be served up as the agency’s web-dev subject matter expert. Period. That person’s mailing address is irrelevant. When that role has to become outward-facing, the person will simply be known as the Senior Digital Director (or the situation will dictate the exact moniker). And if it comes to it, and the agency must put forth that it partners with the Digital Director, it’d be citing one of the most common business practices of agencies everywhere—partnership.
However, the agency personnel still retain their roles as the main points of contact, of course. The directors and managers who the client already knows and loves.
It makes for a great team—the main agency client contact(s) in tandem with the Digital Director. With the latter as the one who can speak to all of the technical considerations that truly answer the Top 3 most important, perennial client questions:
- What is it?…
- How much does it cost?…
- How long does it take?
When agencies have the experts on hand to provide richer answers to those questions, they bring the true value of a service offering (versus a commodity) to the client. In turn, the agency gets paid more as the project develops to its full potential. That is, not just a compilation of plug-ins fashioned together in a web-builder platform that promises a short lifespan.
Money is not left on the table because some billable opportunity got overlooked, got scope-creeped or was beyond capability.
And the client couldn’t be happier that its business has been successfully digitally transformed by its go-to agency… where the entire agency crew was dedicated to success… whether each team member had the company’s dental coverage or not.
1“Why we’re witnessing a new golden age in advertising”, Fast Company, Jan 25, 2021.
2“As a leader, I resisted remote work. Here’s how I flipped the script”, Fast Company, Dec 13, 2021.
*The Agency Audit Research Series, 2022 Research Results
Essential Partners in History
Vivan Vance (“I Love Lucy”)
… as cohort Ethel Mertz, who without her, Lucy would never have had anyone to encourage the feats that made her a truly unmatched comic character.
Nigel Bruce (“Sherlock Holmes”)
…as stammering Dr.Watson, handling the essential forensic tasks of Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock, making him look even more brillant than he already was.