Abhinav Anand

What do mid-sized marketing companies look for in agency partners?

When budgets are tight, choices are many and the dynamic with agency partners is in flux, what skills and services become important?

When budget-bound small businesses and mid-sized marketing companies go about looking for agency partners, it’s a challenging and, often, time-consuming task. Add to that the changing relationship between the marketers and agencies, and the problem is compounded.

We spoke to some marketers to understand the (kind of) skills and services that impress them, and the challenges of navigating a world in which the dynamic between the marketers and agencies is constantly evolving.

For Jeet Ghosh, marketing manager, Hiranandani Communities, a prestigious real estate developer which is into integrated township, residential, commercial, healthcare and more, the agencies that provide and pre-empt solutions stand out. His list of agency must-haves include a set of long-term clients with offline and online channels. A sound knowledge of the digital sphere, including customised audience targeting on a product-to-product basis. Strong ORM capabilities, including dashboards, to continually monitor and respond to consumes. The willingness to proactively experience the product and ask questions. And, a strong grasp of the real estate sector.

Jeet Ghosh
Jeet Ghosh

Besides clutter-breaking creatives, innovation, and a good mix of copy and content capabilities, the other skills that Ghosh is looking for include the ability to consistently develop concepts around the brand’s core capabilities. Quick turnarounds on topical trends and current issues. The ability to monitor the ‘environment’, including clients, competition and the target audience. And, a tendency to exceed promised or proposed results.

About the changing agency-marketer relationship, Ghosh, who typically works with a single agency for a period of two years, says, “Levels have become too layered. So by the time the brief reaches the people who’re actually working on it, there is some dilution. This, at times, leads too much back and forth,” which may, in turn, lead to things being “taken for granted” or “last minute solutions”.

Interestingly, working on a very limited budget, he feels, brings out the best in an agency. How so? “Since we have targets that are easy to achieve with limited spends…” A shoestring budget helps sharpen the targeting and keeps agency teams wise and “right on the buck,” Ghosh insists, adding, “At the back end, we go for cost-effective solutions that give us an edge over others. For this, we don’t mind experimenting with smaller players and giving them an equal opportunity…”

Lending a different perspective on the challenge of landing the right agency partner, Soniya Ramdas, director, Kaustubha Mediaworks, a media outsourcing firm that provides an alternate solution to various companies to outsource their advertising sales, says, “Agencies lack the power of localised treatment. National agencies have less local presence, hence regionalisation is yet to hit big time in India.”

Soniya Ramdas
Soniya Ramdas

Ramdas adds that the main gap in the agency-marketer relationship has to do with the lack of strategically sound agency teams. “An integrated solution provider will be more useful,” she adds.

“Thorough research and analysis of the brand is essential, (as that will help) communicate the message clearly to the audience using various modes… In this age of digital media, the best way to work around a tight budget is to create a good combination of digital promotions, PR, on-ground activation and seeded marketing campaigns,” says Ramdas, for whom the retainer model remains the most optimal mode of (agency) remuneration.

Contextualising the issue, Nabjeet Ganguli, chief marketing officer, Informa Markets, India’s leading exhibition organiser that provides the industry with platforms that bring together buyers and sellers from around the world through a portfolio of events, content-led conferences and seminars, says, “We completely understand the challenges faced by mid-level agencies in the current times. But, paradoxically, now is the time to deliver more quality with fewer resources. For some of them facing a problem, it might be the right time to introspect, adopt and reinvent.”

Nabjeet Ganguli
Nabjeet Ganguli

“We expect our (agency) partner to be flexible, have foresight, be passionate about our industry, be step ahead of us in understanding our clients’ requirements, have a sense of ownership versus a task-centric approach, come up with ideas that impact P&L, and present the right blend of ideas, content, communication and technology related skills,” adds Ganguli, whose team is working with over 14 different B2B communities presently.

This article is brought to you by afaqs! Marketplace, a platform where marketers can find agency partners.