Thursday, April 2, 2009

Integrated Campaigns, Multiple Partners?

Would you take your car to get body work done by Jiffy Lube? If your dentist offered you a great deal on an appendectomy in conjunction with your regular teeth cleaning would you take advantage of the deal? If you had the desire for really really good ice cream would you go to the gas station convenience store to buy it?

I will go out on a limb and assume most would answer "no" to these questions. If that is the case why do so many businesses try to get "one stop shopping" for marketing services? I have been in business in some shape or form for the last 12 years and have never, let me repeat this, NEVER seen a "one stop shop" that can execute best in class services across the board. Usually these shops start out as specialized providers who get coerced by a client or two to expand their services because they do such a great job in their area of expertise. Despite all of the market studies, expert advice to not extend (see any Al Ries marketing book) and all of the specific disaster stories that exist regarding extending services unsuccessfully, service providers extend.

Specifically as it relates to digital services it is commonplace to have a shop that sells it all - SEO, SEM, design, development, email, mobile, social consulting/services, PR, branding, logo design, copy writing and the list goes on. 99% of the time these shops do one or two of these services really really well, and the rest suffer greatly. The "also ran" services are teetering on the verge of malpractice.

No wonder there is so much ineffective work in the market. Recent market research has exposed the fact that there are no less than 150 - 200 advertising agencies/marketing communication and/or marketing consultancies in the city of Chicago alone. Many of these firms claim to offer "web site" design/development and/or interactive services. If you go the portfolio section of many of these firms
web sites, you understand what effective web design and development is and you objectively reviewed the digital work presented you would quickly come to the conclusion that a. the market is glutted b. 85% of these firms have no business performing this work for their clients and c. these firms were founded on other services that they do well.

The result of this mistake of trying to be everything to everyone? You do yourself and your clients a disservice and in the long run you damage your brand and the brand of your client(s).

The solution?? Lose whatever is motivating you to offer services outside your expertise and partner with organizations that specialize in the services you want to offer, but do not have the expertise to execute. A successful integrated campaign requires an integrated group of specialists.

If you choose to go down this path you will realize a few benefits:
1. A higher quality of work for you or your clients
2. Higher returns on your marketing budget or higher margins on service/product offerings
3. Variable costs vs. fixed costs - a good benefit in a poor economy
4. Better results
5. Potentially getting reciprocal referrals from your strategic partners. After all they are specialists too and their clients may need your skills.

I have never met one person or one shop who could perform truly effective SEM, SEO, .NET development, Flash development and high end quailty print and digital design. That person and/or firm does not exist. To be effective with these skills (as examples) it requires different training, high levels of specialized abilities and different personalities. To think one firm can offer all of this in a fashion that is of an expert level for each service is ludicrous.

You don't go to Wal-Mart for custom lamp shades, you go for commodity goods at low prices. Why go to your SEO shop for effective branding or logo design?

Select specialists if you want truly effective products/services. One size rarely fits all. Successful integration requires multiple partners. Lose the ego, find the right partners and watch the positive results flourish.

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