Why do prospects invest in hiring an agency?

Marketing communication services aren’t cheap. Determining whether it is the right decision and a good investment are critical questions when a prospect is deciding to hire your agency or do it on their own.
Shane Carpenter
Shane Carpenter is the founder and CEO of Shane Carpenter Strategic Communication, an integrated marketing communication agency in the Boise, Idaho area. He has also worked for the semi-conductor giant, Intel, where his job duties included employee communications and training. He is a graduate of Boise State University where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Communication.
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Marketing communication services aren’t cheap. Determining whether it is the right decision and a good investment are critical questions when a prospect is deciding to hire your agency or do it on their own.

I’ve seen articles that make the case that one should never hire anybody to do public relations or marketing work. The advice is always the same for prospects: save your money and do it yourself. I like saving money where I can, so I certainly understand the sentiment (if not the shortsightedness) of its conclusion.

Just the other day, I reached out to company with which I would have liked to do business. I was just trying to set up a conversation but the owner immediately told me that they were a small company that didn’t have the budget. I told him I understood and asked if we could still talk. He doubled down and told me that our conversation would not lead to a potential business arrangement in the future. Again, I told him this was fine, I just wanted to talk about his industry.

We went on to have a great conversation, and while I would have loved to have gotten to a point where we talked about what I could offer him, it wasn’t a waste of my time. I got some insight into his company and the industry. It’s information I can keep in mind for future conversations with other companies in the same industry.

The intent of the conversation was primarily about gathering information and if the opportunity turned to services so be it. I didn’t push it but it did give me something else to think about.

When talking to prospects, it’s easy to get caught up in our own sales pitch. After all, we want to close the deal. However, there are many reasons why a prospect might want to hire us or not. I’m going to suggest that you stop for a minute and look at the situation from their perspective.  

While I am a marketing communications professional, I am also a business owner and I go through a process in which I make a decision. Whenever I am considering a purchase, whether a service or tool, I look primarily at three things as part of my evaluation:

  • What is the benefit?
  • What is the cost?
  • Is it going to be a good investment?

Of course the bigger the cost, the longer the process is to make a decision. Let’s look at the reasons why a prospect should and shouldn’t hire you for their marketing communication efforts.

Why a prospect won’t hire an agency

There are some good reasons why a prospect won’t want to hire you. Their organization could be in an industry where there is little to no competition. This puts them in a unique position where people are actively seeking them out. There isn’t a need for much, if any, marketing communication activities in this situation.

They may also have somebody on staff who has the knowledge to do the marketing communication activities in addition to their other job duties. Alternatively, they may have an individual or team that is solely focused on marketing communication.

If they are a small organization or a solopreneur, they may have little choice but to take care of it for themselves. That’s the case for many smaller companies.

The elephant in the room is money. Most agencies are mainly interested in developing and implementing a plan and those services aren’t cheap. If money is an issue, hiring an agency may not even be an option.

This ties into what I mentioned at the beginning of the article. Why spend the money when they can do it themselves? They know their business. Why should they hire you to tell their story when they know it backward and forwards?

Why a prospect should hire an agency

Time is money. Developing a marketing communication plan and executing it takes a good amount of time and engaging in marketing communication activities is time they aren’t working on other aspects of their business. Outsourcing to an agency helps to solve that problem.

Another consideration is that marketing communication is constantly changing. They may not be able to keep up to date on what with what they need to know to properly plan, execute, and see a return on investment.

Do they have the knowledge they need for the many aspects they need to know and consider such as SEO, identifying media contacts and influencers to pitch, what social media channels are the best for their business and how to use them to build their brand?

You know as well as I do that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Part of the reason to hire an agency isn’t just because we are going to do the work. It’s because we have the expertise. We can help guide them in the right direction based on their goals and use models, such as PESO, to help get the best results.

Just because they have a person or team in place doesn’t mean their organization doesn’t need help. Many organizations with PR and marketing groups still contract out some of this work.

Years ago, I was at a conference in Seattle and I met people from three of the biggest PR agencies in the world. I found it interesting that Microsoft, who has its own PR group, hired all of them for some PR work. Sometimes even huge corporations need help in certain situations.

Marketing communication is an investment

There are always costs involved. Some of those costs are things that a company needs to have in order to run the business. If they sell a product, they need to have that product on hand to sell. Yes, it costs something, but they are going to sell it for more than their cost and make a profit.

If potential customers don’t know about a company’s services or products, they won’t consider buying them. Marketing communication is the investment that they make to help obtain customers.

We know how to create a plan that addresses every step of the marketing funnel (not to mention social, media relations, and paid media) from getting awareness to the sale to the retention of that customer. You are in the best position to help them with all of this and get them a return on their investment.

I say it all the time. Marketing communication isn’t an expense, it’s an investment. Whether a prospect hires you or does the work on their own doesn’t change this and positioning it in this way can impact the way a prospect views our services

To hire or not to hire

For most organizations, it’s going to come down to money. After all, money makes the world go around. The cost to have an agency plan and implement is not cheap and this will preclude some of them from hiring you.

Talk with them and listen. Don’t focus on the sale focus on them. This will help you understand whether you are talking to a prospect who will do business with you or not and why. Keep in mind that this is a big decision for them and there are good reasons why to hire or not to hire.

A version of this article was published on Contemporary Communication.