The common descriptors “one-size-fits-all” and “turnkey” share certain definitional similarities. When applied to a business—in this case, marketing agencies—both terms suggest some level of comprehensive capability. They also imply an inherent efficiency or convenience. But there is one key differentiator: VALUE. In this day and age, an agency that is “one-size-fits-all” really fits no one. They may speak all day long of an off-the-shelf marketing or interactive “solution” that can be fit, or retro-fit, to any client to deliver magical success, but the reality is, that amounts to little more than talk.
Turnkey, on the other hand, posits a whole different value promise. While still suggesting convenience and efficiency (like one-size-fits-all), its fundamental meaning is that “everything will be taken care of.” The term isn’t bound by the limitation of “one size”—it implies the capability of delivering a precise, customizable solution that is just what you—the customer—needs, and nothing else. No add-ons, no fat, no fluff. Just a strategic, dialed-in solution from start to finish that addresses your core problem to be solved.
The reason I emphasize this distinction is because brands looking for valid solutions in today’s world need to recognize the difference. Agencies that claim to do it all tend to fall into one of these two camps: 1) the ho-hum, vanilla, one-size-fits-all pretender; or, 2) a highly skilled, strategic shop that quickly analyzes the situation and then customizes a targeted solution based on your specific need. Trouble is, it’s often hard for companies to tell the difference at the get-go. It can take weeks or months for you to realize if you’ve engaged a partner who can take you where you need to go, or is simply spinning your wheels.
What Can I Do To Make Sure We Hire A Turnkey Agency?
For any business, large or small, thinking of engaging a fully integrated digital marketing and branding company to help you get from A to B (whatever that may be), here are several key things to look for:
1) Make sure they’re strategic
Any agency that tries to provide solutions or give you a long list of tactics before they know what you actually need is trouble. You know your business better than anyone. It is the agency’s job to pick your brain and ask the right questions in order to determine what your primary marketing challenge is. The best agencies will try to understand your business—and your unique situation within a given industry—at a deep level. Then and only then should they give you a strategically sound marketing plan to build awareness, drive leads, or convert prospects to actual customers.
2) Meet the team
Some agencies will bring in their top dogs on a pitch in order to win your business, only to hand you over to a younger, more inexperienced team once you are safely in the door. Before you sign on with a firm, insist on meeting and speaking with the people who will actually be working on your account. Be sure to find out what their roles are, what their experience level is, and how they plan to help you grow.
3) Check references carefully
Most agencies can talk a great game. They are masters at selling themselves. But what you ultimately need is an agency that will be masterful at selling your business or product. It is critical that they provide you with a reference list and that you call each person on the list. Try to ask them questions that will elicit a more unbiased portrayal of the agency, such as: “Tell me what they do well and what they struggle with”; “If you have to pick a weak spot with this agency, what is it?”; “How did the first three months of the relationship go and what could they have done differently?”…etc.
4) Factor in their experience
Obviously, it is great if you can find an agency that has relevant experience in your industry or category. If you are a B2B manufacturing company, check their relevant manufacturing experience. If you are a resort, check to see what their experience is in tourism or destination marketing. If you sell widgets, see what experience they have selling other types of widgets. If you can’t find any similar, like-minded clients in their portfolio, then that could be a deal breaker—no matter how smart or likeable they appear.
5) Do they have the horses
Just because an agency says they can do it all doesn’t mean they can. As discussed above, the word “integrated” could mean either one-size-fits-all, or a turnkey partner. You want the latter. In order to be a true turnkey resource for your brand, the agency must have the right people in the right lanes. Make sure they have real talent across the board—with regard to strategic thinking, branding/design, interactive development, content marketing, social media, mobile marketing, SEO/SEM, etc. If they don’t have those lanes covered with qualified people then they can’t be turnkey.
6) Go with your gut
Marketing isn’t rocket science—it’s people science. Don’t overlook the human component. You have to feel a connection or strong vibe or natural affinity for any agency you choose to work with. Just like people, agencies have personalities too. And not every agency jives philosophically or strategically with every brand. Make sure you pick one that seems to be a good fit with you. Even if an agency meets all of the above criteria, they ultimately must be a group of people you enjoy being around and working with. Chemistry is the key to any successful relationship.