How important is cultural fit when choosing a marketing agency?

So you’ve chosen to hire a marketing agency. You’ve weighed up the pros and cons of keeping your marketing in-house or outsourcing to an agency, and know that the best decision for your brand is to welcome a team of specialists to take control of (and create some magic with) your marketing plan.

But how do you find the best marketing agency for your brand?

After all, there’s a raft of choice. From full service and integrated marketing agencies (who’ll promise to look after every aspect of your marketing plan), to niche and specialist agencies (who’ll manage one function as experts in digital, SEO, branding, PR, copywriting, sponsorship, events, creative and graphic design – or whatever part of your marketing mix requires support).

As a full service marketing communication agency, we’d argue that hiring one agency to manage every aspect of your brand’s marketing requirements has clear advantages – particularly if you’re looking for a more streamlined service. One team of experts, all sitting under one roof, collaborating and working together off one brief, to deliver a fully integrated and coordinated service, meeting all project requirements has to appeal to the busy marketing manager.

But this is just the start of the process.

Once you’ve identified what type of agency you need to work with, you can then work out who you’d liketo work with.

For many, the first place to look is sector expertise. Those in the construction and building trade may want to research which are the best marketing agencies for construction brands. Or those in education may look to see which marketing agencies have experience of working with colleges or universities. And so on.

But for us, the most important factor in agency selection should not be sector experience, but cultural fit.

After all, if you want this client:agency thing to work out, you’re going to have to get along. Get on well, even.

Which marketing agency offers your brand the best cultural fit?

Are you (your brand) and your chosen agency culturally aligned? How can you tell?

This is where the real fun begins.

If you don’t already have a clearly defined brand culture, start by examining your brand purpose, ethics and values, the sector you’re operating in and the expectations of your audience and client base. Does your brand push boundaries, or is it conservative and safe? Is your brand a risk-taker, or does it take the well-trodden path? Is it fun and creative, or somber and systematic?

And then, of course, there’s the culture of the team and the individual personalities within it (though if the leadership team has done its job well, the team shouldbe harmoniously aligned with the brand culture in any event).

Agencies will likewise have their own ‘brand’ culture or identity, informed and shaped by its vision, values and service standards, as well as its ethos and behaviours such as its propensity for risk-taking and innovation, its desire for collaboration versus independence, its creativity and ambition – and so on. Clear cultures (together with compelling client lists and portfolios of work) help build strong reputations.

At Rave, strong cultural fit defines all of our agency:client relationships. Here’s why.

 The importance of cultural fit

Cultural fit is the secret ingredient in any successful professional relationship. It’s not too extreme to say that it could be the difference between relationship success, or relationship stress.

  • Cultural fit predicts relationship success

After all, with marketing agencies functioning as an extension of the brand’s marketing team, it’s vital that both teams operate in harmony with one another. Agency culture should align with client brand values – it’s one way of helping the account team and creatives be (and stay) enthusiastic about the client brand.

If either agency or brand is being pulled (or pushed), against their will along a cultural path that simply doesn’t feel right, the relationship is unlikely to succeed. Given the time investment in getting agency teams onboard and up to speed – not to mention the hassle factor in unpicking and starting again – embarking on a relationship where the cultural fit isn’t there could mean a costly and stressful experience for all concerned.

  • Cultural fit facilitates empathy – which makes everything tick along nicely

Strong cultural fit will help ensure that the people in the account team responsible for the day-to-day management of your brand will have a genuine empathy for your brand and products. Empathy helps build trust, as those with good empathy can be relied upon to make the right snap decisions for the brand, without the constant need for approval. Which, of course, means everything can run smoothly, with the added advantage of reduced supervision time.

  • Cultural fit is determined by brand and sector

Just as no two brands are the same, no two agencies are the same, either. Which is good news for everyone – how dull would things be if every agency delivered the same work against the same brief, with no room for creative interpretation.

Of course this means there’s the perfect agency:client match for all out there – so if you’re currently hiring an agency, stay the course – ‘the one’ could be just around the corner.

Challenger or high growth brands might want a high growth agency, and whilst fun brands might need a creative, playful agency to launch their latest kids toy and establish it as the playground craze-of-the-moment, professional services firms, such as solicitors and accountants will likely require a more sober approach to reflect the nature of their brand and services – as well as to meet their client expectations.

Whilst a bold, fun, creative agency will feel constrained with a professional services brief, a firm of lawyers would be frustrated with an agency uncomfortable with the restraint of the sector.

Horses for courses, you may say.

  • Cultural fit is not just what you know

It’s not just brief delivery and execution that is determined by agency culture. Agencies offer so much more than simply delivering on a brief.

Agencies understand the nuances of their sector, the contacts within it and the way in which things ‘get done’. Finding an agency that ‘gets’ your brand, as well as your sector and vision is the first step on the path to great things.

If you’re looking for an integrated marketing agency in Birmingham, we can talk you through our culture, the way we work and the things that ‘make us tick’. Talk to us to find out if we’d be the right fit for you and your brand. Get in touch or call John on 01675 467 462/ 07748 114444 or email jwilford@rave-communications.com.

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