Take your pick: CocaCola, or cheap own brand pop?

Why asking an agency for free advice is a false economy

Everyone wants something for free, right?

We’re no different and love a 2-4-1 deal as much as anyone! But bagging a bargain on cans of Coke is a world away from asking a content or communications agency to give their advice FOC when pitching for new business.

OK – we know you would expect us to say that! But stay with us as we explain 3 reasons why asking agencies to pitch their best ideas for free is a false economy.

1: You get what you pay for

No matter how marketing and communications are transformed by digital technology, some ‘old school’ rules still apply – and this is one that never changes. Whatever you’re looking for, you want the best solution your budget will allow. We get that – every £ spent has to have a measurable ROI. But expecting agencies to give away their best ideas for free as part of a tender process usually results in a race to the bottom which is won by an agency that’s focused on price rather than performance – we know, we’ve been there many times before!

The best agencies – especially those in our specialist areas of finance and technology – will give you an open and honest answer about what is achievable for any given budget, so choosing the best doesn’t mean busting your budget. Expecting A-list agencies to offer their best ideas FOC during a tender process often means that weeds out the best and not the worst of the bunch, leaving only agencies that feel forced to make unrealistic promises about what they can achieve within the budget they’re given.

Any agency exec with experience and credibility will value their teams’ collective expertise and experience, so it’s worth asking yourself this question: Do you really want to work with someone who is willing to give so much away for free?

2: Team players

Collaborative working is most effective when there’s a synergy between the agency team and their client. Bringing together a great product or service with brilliant creative ideas results in a powerful content and communications strategy. That’s how the magic happens! We know that from our 20 plus years’ experience in the industry. But what happens if your business ends up working with an agency driven primarily by a willingness to undercut its competitors? Do you think that approach demonstrates creative thinking, innovation or ingenuity? Take that road, and the chances are it will lead to you working with a team that’s not 100% focused on providing the best solution you could get for your budget.

3: The confidence to challenge

Collaboration between agency and client is essential for any communications strategy – but sometimes clients benefit from constructive criticism of their current strategy. It’s widely recognised that most businesses suffer from some degree of ‘closed thinking’ which can stifle creativity – especially if challenging the status quo means marketing or communications managers questioning the CEO’s views!

Getting a fresh perspective from an agency is often a great way to break down barriers and open up new conversations that lead to more engaging ideas, and more effective strategies. Whether it’s help with social media content and strategy, or design, the best agencies take the time to understand your business. They will use that understanding to inspire new ideas and – if necessary – challenge current strategies.

The question is, will an agency that says what you want to hear when it comes to their fee, and gives away its best ideas in a tender process, really be bold enough to challenge you on your communications strategy? Or are they more likely to just go along with what they think you want to hear? Getting a ‘third eye’ perspective is one of the most significant advantages that comes from working with the best communications agencies – and they don’t give that expertise away for nothing.

Summing up

Just like Coca-Cola, leading content and communications agencies don’t give away the secret recipe of their success for free.

So when you’re deciding on an agency to work with, the choice is simple – you can go for the cheapest option, or buy The Real Thing.

Get in touch with the MMC team at [email protected]

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