by Jo Parker, Founding Director, Engage Comms

June 2022 marks ten years since Engage Comms launched as a B2B marketing comms agency looking to fill a gap in the market between traditional PR firms and a new generation of digital marketing ‘techies’.

Since then, we have worked with a wide range of clients in niche sectors from manufacturing and construction to skills, debt, healthcare, and fintech. We’ve also encountered a whole host of pre-conceived ideas about what working with an outsourced agency can mean for a business or organisation based on both past experience of the outdated agency model and confusion around new offerings in the marketplace.

Here are 10 B2B marketing comms agency myths that we’ve busted over the last 10 years:

1.Working with an external agency is more expensive than recruiting an in-house marketing team

We often work with clients who struggle to hire and retain good marketing professionals at all levels, not because there aren’t highly skilled people out there but because the skills required are often under-valued and under-estimated.

If you choose the right agency, you could access Director level strategic support and ‘ready to go’ expertise for the same cost as hiring a junior or mid-level marketing executive in-house. The agency team can add measurable value from the get-go with no holiday/sick pay, national insurance, benefits, or other employment costs. You’ll also get much greater flexibility to ensure that everything delivered has a clear return on investment over the long term, even on one-off projects or sporadic ‘critical friend’ consultancy.

2. A marketing agency will just suggest creative/flashy ideas and tactics

Any agency worth its weight will start with understanding your business objectives and make sure the strategy and tactics they suggest are aligned with them and fit for purpose for the audience/proposition.

It can be easy for both clients and agencies to fall for a ‘wow-factor’ proposal full of big creative ideas, but we stay true to our Yorkshire roots with a down-to-earth approach that logically solves the business problem. This doesn’t mean we’re not creative: Working in the kind of ‘dry’ sectors we work in and deliver real results in the most cost-effective way requires much more innovative thinking than promoting a consumer brand.

3. We’ll be tied into an expensive long-term ‘retainer’

When we set up Engage Comms 10 years ago, we made it our mission to throw the old ‘retainer’ model out of the window.  Even when we do have longer term agreements and relationships with clients, there is a tangible set of objectives, activity, and targets set which ensure that, while there is flexibility to be ‘reactive’ to the ever-changing agenda, we are always proactively pursuing ways to add value rather than either waiting to be told what to do or following a formulaic model.

We also always give client relationships time to develop with up-front projects and pilot campaigns so that they can experience the outcomes and way of working before agreeing to anything longer term. Plus, we review, evaluate, and adapt what we’re doing regularly so it evolves with the client’s needs.

4. Agencies can only have a short-term impact

Even short-term projects should always have long term outcomes. Some of our longest-standing clients started working with us on an ad hoc basis ten years ago and they still bring us in when they need high level expertise on a specific project or to work alongside their marketing team where they might have a skills gap in a particular area.

We also know that clients we haven’t worked with at all for several years are still benefiting from and drawing on the work we originally did for them.

5. The latest skills are best harnessed in-house

When you work with an agency, you are buying into a team of people with a wide variety of experience and expertise, including hard-to-come-by writing skills. Our integrated approach offers clients skilled services from copywriting and graphic design to web development and videography, project managed by our core team to reduce the hassle. An agency should give the in-house team the support and time to focus on their day job, supplementing the services and skills they need in the most agile way.

6. Managing the relationship with an agency is really time consuming

Our point of contact within a client organisation can vary from a middle manager to the Head of Marketing or the Chief Exec/Board and we understand that, in all cases, their time can be limited. As an agency, it’s our job to make life easier, not harder, by finding ways to work smarter and add value that can be particularly challenging for those in-house.  Our ability to quickly get under the skin of the organisation by asking the right questions, doing our research, and keeping our finger on the pulse means they quickly trust us to communicate on their behalf so we don’t need to be ‘micro managed’.

7. Someone outside the organisation wouldn’t understand our customers

Knowing your customer and reaching them are two very different things. We specialise in identifying and communicating with ‘hard to reach’ audiences, engaging them through compelling content. Customers are becoming more selective about what they choose to consume so aligning your content strategy is vital; there’s no room for ‘doing it the way you’ve always done it’ and hoping it sticks. We regularly host target audience workshops for our clients to gain valuable insight which can then feed into the marketing strategy. The fresh perspective from an external partner is invaluable.

8. Agencies work with lots of different sectors – we need a specialist

Your in-depth industry insight is what gives you credibility with target audiences but it’s easy to become inward looking and miss new opportunities. An external agency should bring new insights and ideas to the table that are fit-for-purpose but not run-of-the-mill. Whilst we work across a number of sectors, we have enough experience in some niche ones to make us specialist, which offers our clients the best of both worlds.

9. Working with an agency is risky

Agencies can go out of business, have high staff turnover, or just get complacent. Clients see this as a risk to consistency, continuity, and intellectual property.

We take the same ‘quality over quantity’ to our business as we do to client work: We’d rather focus on fewer clients who we offer a range of integrated services to than have lots of clients who we only work with on a superficial level. We also ensure that we set a consistent strategy, narrative, tone of voice, and suite of content at the beginning that is owned by the client should they wish/need to take things back in-house at any point. We’ve even trained clients’ new team members to take over what we’re doing once we’ve got things off the ground.

10. It’s my business, no one can sell it as well as I can!

As founders of a small business, we understand the temptation to try and control/do everything yourself! But while you are the expert at what your business delivers, marketing agencies are the experts in maximising what you do. You may have strong customer relationships and know who you want to target, but are you best placed to articulate your proposition when you are so close to it? A fresh perspective can bring a new dimension and some structure to not only keeping your existing audiences engaged but tapping into new markets.

If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of engaging external marketing comms support, get in touch.