December 19, 2016

Is it time to change tradition?

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a big fan of tradition, especially around the holidays. All of the same ornaments are on my Christmas tree this year, my daughter is enjoying her Elf on the Shelf named Ginger once again (when I remember to move it around, that is), and I have my tried-and-tested holiday rituals and indulgences I look forward to each season.

But apart from the holidays, some other traditions are ripe for change. As Crux completes our first calendar year, I’m always reminded why I was compelled in the first place to branch out on my own and start my own firm. Around the office, we’ve been toying with this concept of Crux as the “un-agency,” and who knows, maybe a new tagline is in our future. Because while I firmly believe there’s still a place for that traditional agency model in the ever-evolving business climate, I also know maintaining that long-standing tradition isn’t always in the best interest of many businesses today.

Choosing another path

It’s no secret we’re fully immersed in the new gig economy. The standard 40-hour work week is of course still the norm, but more and more workers are seeking (and finding) more flexibility and options for completing their daily tasks. Many employees now choose when and where they work, connecting through technology while on the go. This type of model is not only favored by the increasingly large numbers of Millennials in the work force, but it’s also more and more efficient for employers as well.

This same shift is spilling over into the agency world, as more companies take a second look at the “agency of record” model with a traditional large firm. Sammy Davis, a former ad executive, writes that an estimated 42 percent of major North American brands ditched their agency-of-record between 2008 and 2014. Why? Well, many businesses that need support for their internal marketing teams find themselves stuck working with junior associates at these large firms—well-meaning young professionals that lack experience or specialized skills. Or worse, they find themselves on the hook for a suite of creative services that goes way beyond what their marketing strategies require.

If the big boys are finding more efficient methods of achieving their marketing and advertising goals, it makes even more sense for small businesses and start-ups, which lack the deep pockets needed for many of these large traditional agencies.

‘Everything you need, nothing you don’t’

The golden age of large TV campaigns and print ads is no more. While the marketing and advertising world evolves to include new media and focused channels, Davis writes the need for specialized services is even more important.:

“By addressing needs with specialists, internal teams are now playing a new role—and this role is the primary reason for the shift from agencies. With the increasing investment in internal marketing management, the needs for outside help have become much more defined. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in individuals with specialized skill sets looking after a specific responsibility or piece of the puzzle, as compared with outsourcing to one company, employing the questionable ‘jack of all trades’ model.”

Many of the businesses we talk with have a great handle on their marketing and sales efforts. Yet, like so many companies, they have no time for storytelling. Their brand is leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but no one’s there to see it—or even hear the tale after it happens. Which means they’re missing out on a lot of potential growth. By outsourcing one or more aspects of their marketing tactics – public relations, social media, blogging, etc. – companies can better control their costs and only pay for what they need—and work with a specialist who truly understands their business.

So, yes, as the holidays approach, I’ll still be whipping up a batch of sugar cookies my daughter and I can decorate together (we do it every year!), but I look forward to the new evolution of the marketing agency. After all, it’s time for a new tradition.

As founder and CEO of Crux, Melea McRae is helping area businesses start new traditions of smarter marketing investments. Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @findyourcrux.

About the author: Melea McRae is a marketing strategist with 25+ years of B2B and B2C experience leading client-facing marketing departments, where she earned the reputation as an insightful brand strategist. As SVP and CMO at the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce, she led the organization’s marketing and business development efforts. In July 2016, Melea launched Crux KC, providing an in-house marketing team, outsourced – the “un-agency” – for her small-to-mid-sized clients. As founder and CEO, she builds marketing, communication and business development strategies for her clients, while positioning them for sustainable growth.

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