Freelancers and vendors and contractors, oh my! The thought of so many cohorts in one place could be frightening, just like Frank L. Baum suggested in his famous tale about traveling to Oz and the lions and tigers and bears along the way. Three antagonists is a lot!
But get this, Baum’s original line-up of daunting partners-in-plot was much longer than just the three cohorts on that list. The quantity got trimmed down for the big screen.*
Marketing agency owners have to do the same. Trim the list of cohorts.
One must ask oneself:
1. What types of partners make the best fit?
2. How many should one choose?
In a previous article, Choosing the Right [Web Development] Outsourcing Partner, we answer the first question above. The short answer is: To choose the right partner, one has to consider how the agency is positioned.
To answer the second question: How many partners?, there’s more to it. But again, one has to consider how the agency is positioned.
Let’s start there and break it down into the ABC’s.
Strategy of the Business
When it comes to the strategic positioning of an ad agency, the Harvard Business School underscores the story of development company C3.ai. The firm’s strategic position is straightforward: Strategize and then develop AI applications at a level well beyond that of its customers (who also develop AI).
So, to remain competitive, it chooses employees very carefully. And it also chooses partners in a similar fashion. To summarize: They must have the necessary technical skills and be fully committed across the board (to support the strategy).
Well, a marketing agency can behave in the same way: Strategy first. That is, deliver up the intelligence and conceptual, creative thinking that helps its web-development clients deliver more personalized and engaging online experiences to customers, which builds and nurtures more lucrative relationships over time.
But then partner with an outsource to execute the commoditized rigors of web-dev production.
That’s what great agencies do. They commit to strategy, not just some production-based service offerings any agency under the sun could offer. They zero in on the intelligence that draws the preferred clients they want.
Partners can handle the distracting production work.
Support of the Business
OK. Now that we’ve successfully separated strategy from production, let’s talk about how the latter does indeed get done. We will assume that development gets supported by some sort of partnering. Maybe it’s multiple freelancers or vendors. There’s a front-end person over here, back-end over there, sysadmin in between, QA, SEO and guess what, maybe more than one of each of those. And on and on.
Suddenly (or, again) there are a lot of moving parts to take away focus from the big picture. An agency might need a lot of people just to manage those multiple resources. Suddenly, a distraction we got rid of is now back in another form.
In contrast, if we could use just a single partner resource, there’d be a much more manageable single point of contact. Then, the agency can better leverage the unicorn(s) it may have on staff. Someone internally who knows what is going on with the web-dev project overall while also managing that one resource to get all of the production work done too.
The result? Cadence. Communication. Trust. Efficient economies of scale.
Although just a single point of contact, a good white label outsource might have 70 people on board. All of them coordinated collectively, through job boards, tracking, project management. Not only is that handled efficiently, in a consolidated way, but all that previously unconsolidated mess has been delegated out of the agency.
So much more time for strategy.
Think of it, compared to a bunch of disconnected transactional vendors, a collective of expert technicians are sharing code and script, sharing experiences. They’re supporting each other, they’re operating in agile methodology. To innovate, developers have to work as teams. A single partner ensures that. In fact, outsources themselves constantly flex to expand those teams as needed.
Future of the Business
So once we’ve put first things first by focusing on strategy and delegating production, let’s then imagine that as a result the agency is doing great and delivering up that complex web project. Then another complex project comes in. And another. Instead of a single web-development powerhouse, could a handful of disparate freelancers take on all of that new work at once or do they have to wait until the first project is finished?
There’s an old joke about looking for a spouse: Find one that is a good listener, a good housemate, makes you laugh and is romantic. Then, don’t let those four know about each other. That is, good partners are hard to find, but find one that can deliver all you need.
There’s a huge portfolio of kick#ss available in one powerful partner. It handles the execution. Enables a focus on strategy. Allows for scale. And as a nice little bonus, it optimizes adjusted gross income by saving the full-time salaries for the strategic in-house talent the agency needs most.
*Although it originally had just modest box-office results, The Wizard of Oz was rerun on U.S. television for decades. It’s a classic part of American movie culture—#10 on the AFI Top 100.
As a result, many Americans of a certain age recall the catch phrases with ease:
“I’ll get you, my pretty… We’re not in Kansas anymore… Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”
You would not be alone if you ever asked, “Do lions and tigers and bears actually coexist in a single forest? The answer: Not since Mesopotamian times.
However, if you think that short-list is hard to swallow, Frank L. Baum’s original story had a much longer list† of cohorts.
But, the screenwriters trimmed it down, and no one can question the enduring success of “less is more”… oh my!
†Per Baum’s original story, the wild critters were lions, tigers, bears, elephants, wolves, foxes, Kalidahs (bear-tiger mutants), a giant spider “and all the others in the natural history”.