The business case for external PR and marketing support


Okay, you know that you need an external PR and marketing agency to get the marketing and business results your executive team is demanding. But do they understand it? Maybe. Maybe not.

Assuming there is not a fully-fledged, board-approved marketing plan with an agency budget already in hand, here are the three arguments for bringing on an outside agency in the language that your executive team will understand.

1. BANDWIDTH

An agency can deliver more marketing hours than you can provide with your current in-house team. Your bosses need to understand that if they want the marketing department to do more, it means more hours of work, more feet on the street.

The bandwidth argument needs careful handling. On its own, bandwidth can sound like a short-term issue. “I know things are busy with this launch but things should calm down when that is over“.

If your bosses don’t understand the continuous demands of marketing, they may think that all the bandwidth you need could come in the shape of one or more interns for a couple of months. Hey, depending upon your exact situation, they may be right. But often an untried intern or two just won’t cut it.

The way to handle the bandwidth argument is to lay out clearly what marketing outputs are realistic for your current team and what outputs and outcomes could be achieved with additional resources. This is especially important for start-up marketing people or teams. Rightly or wrongly, start-up founders may think that all that marketing stuff was your job, and the idea that they need to spend more money may cause them to question your efficacy. So start-ups need to lay out an even more careful business case.

Explaining what opportunities are being missed out on due to your own lack of bandwidth will help make a compelling argument. Focus on the positives, the extra media and analyst engagement, the new content marketing initiatives and the additional digital marketing programs that will boost the company’s awareness and lead generation.

2. ENTRY INTO NEW MARKETS

Often, we are approached by companies that do not have experience in a particular tech sector or geography. Maybe they have been successful in one niche or geography, but the next sector is completely new to them.

When you are entering a new market, such as the mobile telecommunications market, or even the European mobile telecommunications market, you need advice and experience that can short-circuit the otherwise lengthy process of trial and error. Of course, smart people can learn about new markets – there is no shortage of information on the web. But in-depth knowledge of a market, and all its key players and influencers can take years to develop.

PR and marketing agencies that specialize in your target market will already know the best route to market and the people, events, media and analysts that hold influence. To make your argument, make sure your executive team can visualize the potential results that could be achieved by bringing experts on board.

That means having case studies on hand from your shortlist of prospective agencies. Specifically, has your prospective agency delivered great results in your sector, in your geography and for companies of your size? And to be fair to the agency or agencies, ask them for case studies, not proposals – there is no point any agency pitching for business which does not yet have executive buy-in.

The “entry into new markets” argument is usually pretty robust. When a new market has important strategic significance for a company, few senior people are comfortable with giving it a shot with unsuitable resources.

3. SKILLSETS

The skillsets required in marketing can be extremely broad. For many reasons, your team may be missing vital ingredients of the marketing skills pie that you cannot or will not bring in through a full-time employee. We have seen many instances where we have been brought in because the skills and experience were just not available in-house. They didn’t have the media relations skills, writing skills, digital marketing knowledge or analyst relations skills and experience that they needed. The right agency can fill the skills gap very quickly.

If your executive team is realistic, they will understand this business case. If, for example, you come from an event marketing background and your company needs more content marketing or technology public relations experience to increase your awareness or lead gen, you can make the skillset argument, assuming you have a positive and transparent relationship with your executive team. But when making the case, make sure you express your willingness to learn. You don’t want to make it look like a dereliction of duty. Some of the best clients we have worked are willing to be led and excited to learn more about other marketing disciplines that don’t match their background.

They have used the experience to broaden their skillset and become more rounded marketing professionals. When making the skillsets argument, use some of the widely-available statistics which show, for example, what a content marketing campaign initiative is likely to mean for the business. Again, your executive team needs to visualize what the results of a new initiative will look like.

When it comes to making the case for external marketing agency support, it will boil down to one or more of the above categories. Make your internal case carefully and have one or more go-to agencies with the right match of skills and experience on hand to make it a reality, when you’ve gained internal sign-off.