How to know what you don’t know
The Smart Idea
As someone who spent decades on the client-side managing marketing communications departments, I have a few thoughts for those of you who are wondering what strategic marketing and communications agencies can do for you.
In some companies, an in-house marketing communications department exists. If you need an external resource, it’s usually because:
- You need to outsource production-type activities to address a workload issue.
- You need technical expertise that you don’t have in-house.
These two scenarios are familiar, well-defined and concrete; the solutions are clear and the results are tangible.
The third scenario is abstract. It’s when you realize that you’re missing The Smart Idea or need someone to help you give life to The Smart Idea. You need Smart Ideas because these can take things to the next level for your company. Our definition:
A Smart Idea is a Big Idea that gets results and can actually be implemented.
In other words, it’s Real, it’s Worth It, and we can Win It.
Overcoming Internal Obstacles
Identifying, capturing and nurturing that Smart Idea is a lot like hunting an exotic animal. Most people don’t do it all the time and need an experienced, resource-full guide to collaborate with you, support you and streamline the process. This is when it’s time to consider hiring strategic marketing and communications agencies and you get the most value.
There are four reasons Smart Ideas are hard to come by (and I know this from experience!):
- People don’t care. Much as we love a Smart Idea when we see one, the agency can’t be the ones who care more about your project than you do. Without internal support, even the best Smart Idea can die of loneliness. Your agency can help you build your case.
- People don’t know how to come up with a real Smart Idea. That’s okay. Having the wisdom to know what you don’t know is one of the primary reasons you seek out an experienced expert; your agency should be there for you, ready and able to step in to lead and guide you to finding your Smart Idea.
- People have their own versions of what the Smart Idea should be. If those ideas are hampered by what the group believes cannot be discussed or touched, it’s really not a robust Smart Idea. You might end up just picking the tallest midget in the room. Sometimes, an agency’s advantage is being external to your company; it means being neutral and agnostic, which are two great qualities that can help facilitate tough discussions. Smart Ideas need to fully explore and consider all aspects of the challenge at hand so we all move forward with our eyes wide open.
- People are afraid. Change is hard. Depending on how you look at it, Change can be scary to the point of being paralyzing, or Change can be an exciting adventure. Sometimes, an organization is not willing to accept an external agency’s ideas. It could be a team that will reject any idea that was Not Invented Here, or maybe the organization’s team members feel like they’ll be perceived as not doing their jobs if they reach out for external help. There’s a million reasons that can keep things stuck, but if fear is the reason, then call it out so you can address it. Your agency is there to help eliminate as much uncertainty as possible and provide a practical roadmap that’s tailored for you. We believe all of our clients should be heroes, leading the way forward for their organizations — that’s how everyone wins!
Independent Creative Thinkers — A Different Way to Work
The keyword is “Independent”. This is important, because there are a lot of agencies out there, and you need some criteria to help you winnow down the best agency for your particular needs.
If you’ve determined that you need a strategic marketing and communications agency, you’ve vetted the agency’s experience and expertise, and your final selection requires acknowledging a bit of chemistry to ensure you get great results. After all, you should enjoy the journey too!
When you partner with the right independent creative thinkers, the experience can open your mind to a very different way of working. It’s different in the sense that independent creative thinkers aren’t burdened by the company’s creative dependencies — ideas are fresh because they aren’t shackled by groupthink or company politics and baggage.
This liberation enables the generation of distinctive ideas you may not have considered and results in transformative work.
I found a lot of advantages when I hired strategic marketing and communication agencies. The biggest advantage is you choose who you work with:
- People you enjoy.
- People who have your back and embrace your successes and failures.
- People who complement and augment your thinking but are honest enough to tell you when your idea stinks but then they ask if this is what you really mean and show you an ‘aha’ idea.
- People who have worked with government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, startups and are industry-agnostic and tactic-agnostic but zealots about being strategically and creatively focused on you.
Did I mention that in the end, this better way of working is faster, more straightforward and creates value?
The Project Leader Defined
To succeed, you absolutely, positively, must make sure there’s a leader who can usher the entire team through your planning, processes and execution.
You don’t need a big title to lead. In the beginning of my career, I often was assigned the team leader role. My managers were pretty smart in not telling me that someone in her 20s with my experience level didn’t normally have the kind of decision responsibility I had for the Big Hairy Projects. Together, we discovered that calculated risk has its rewards, and ignorance really can be bliss (and fun!)
Regardless of title, the leader must have the credibility to be sure the team doesn’t get stuck in a sea of ideas, starts having subjective opinions and forgets WHY you are doing what you are doing. It can be a marketing leader on the client-side or the agency strategist who knows how to manage the client relationship and support you, or even help guide and train less experienced members of the team.
Hiring An Agency Can Be YOUR Smart Idea
Next time you find yourself contemplating hiring an in-house creative person, or an external resource, explore what it is that you really need. If it’s a Smart Idea, this could be a fantastic opportunity to be that person who finds their independent creative thinkers, creates some great transformative work and lets the folks who experience what you created lead you to your next adventure.
The first step in your journey is to give us a call so we can help you find your Smart Idea!