Frostbites:
  • Opinion

Full service agency or specialist?

I’ve been to many agency events and talks over the past couple of years that cover topics to help business owners like me grow or build a stable agency. These topics may range from discussing new business, building an effective team and culture, through to growing your network and building relationships and partnerships.

A hot topic at the moment is the discussion around specialists and specialisms. This has prompted our team to look at ourselves more closely and to identify whether we should evolve the business to be a specialist in a particular sector or group of sectors, for example our team has decades of experience working within property or the built environment, amongst many others, so could we not become a property marketing expert? But then we thought marketing is such a broad term and we’re not a full service agency so what are we really good at and what should we do?

I’m from a branding and design background, so that’s what I know and understand inside and out. I’ve been fortunate to work in a wide range of agencies from fully integrated, digital, communications, graphic design, brand and PR so have a pretty good ‘generalist’ understanding of what is involved in each discipline and the bigger marketing picture as a whole. However, one thing I can take from my experience at various agencies I’ve been employed by is, unless you can find an agency that has a team of say 50/60+ people, you’ll be hard pushed to find a good, truly fully integrated agency that is the top of the tree in terms of everything they offer as a service. This excludes the powerhouses within the WPP group of course. But we’re rarely pitching against those companies. If you are an agency of say 10 people approx, trying to sell a full service solution then you’re bound to fall short on certain skills in my opinion. You can’t be a branding expert and then be an SEO expert or social media expert at the same time, for example.

As a young agency owner I have been tempted to communicate that we offer a full service on occasion and then use contractors to deliver the services the current team can’t, such as PR, PPC or SEO. However this goes against everything we preach to our clients about being true to themselves when it comes to their brand. It’s also very risky dabbling in things you’re not an expert in yourself. Our team are brand and communications experts, that’s what we are specialists in. We support our clients on brand strategy and the implementation of the brand and design of communications across all the various touch-points online, offline and through into workspaces and environments. What we don’t do is run social media campaigns, build booking engines, SEO, develop social marketing strategies and manage the social media for our clients. In instances where our clients need support in an area we are not experts in, we would look to partner with other agencies. That way the client benefits from true experts in their field with each partner playing to their own strengths and giving the client the very best. The saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” often springs to mind. We are honest enough to focus on our strengths and hold our hands up when we are crossing the line into unknown territory.

I only need to think back to when I took the plunge and handed my notice in at an agency who was coincidently, at the time, dabbling at trying to be full service and failing in some areas. This was what prompted me to set up Frost in the first place. I knew what my strengths were, what I wanted to be doing and went out and got it. It was strategic branding and design, it’s as simple as that. It wasn’t doing a bit of PR campaign work here, some branding there, or some social media across various sectors. From day one, being a specialist at brand was what I wanted to deliver. We have a great, multi-disciplined team of experts, from a senior level brand strategist, designers, illustrators, a web developer and a copywriter as our core team supported by our Studio Manager and Client Partner, who also happens to be a photographer and interior designer. Not everyone is full-time but we take on projects that we know we can deliver on. Occasionally, we may need a creative skill that is missing on a particular project and we’ll draft someone in but generally all our work is delivered by our core team. That way we know the client will end up with a great end product.

We’re not greedy and we don’t have ego’s, we don’t want to be delivering social media or PR, taking hold of everything. We’re happy to support other agencies who may not have a design or creative skill set or the brand knowledge we posses on those tasks and we’re more than happy to invite other agencies to support our client as a partnership when required. We’ve worked alongside office fit-out specialists, social media agencies, SEO and PPC agencies, in shared collaborations for various clients and is something we will continue to do more of in the future.

We have growth ambitions, but growth doing what we’re good at is the intention. We’re never going to be an ‘all things to all people’ agency. If you need your brand addressed then we’ll take a lead on that. If you want your SEO or social media implemented then we’ll pass but recommend an expert that can help. Naturally, we have gained more experience or specialisms working within certain sectors and you can review those here. However we truly believe that our methodology and approach to branding is applicable to any sector. It’s our expertise and knowledge of branding as a service that set’s us apart.

If you would like to know more about Frost’s strategic branding and design services then feel free to get in-touch with the team.

Gary