20 Feb

Marketing Agency Has No Experience in Your Industry? It May Not Matter (It Might Even Help)

By Erika Turan, APR


If you’ve ever been on the hunt for the perfect new marketing agency partner, you know how difficult it can be to find the right fit. You’re looking for that compatible combination of budget, personalities, creative, skillsets and, of course, experience.

In my decades working in public relations and marketing in Cincinnati, I’ve sat on both sides of the table. It’s an enjoyable challenge to spend a couple of days interviewing agencies, understanding their capabilities and judging how their portfolios might fit the needs of the company.

More often than not, the search for an agency – understandably – begins with finding those that have experience in your industry. It’s a conservative approach that often works: you get to hear from a parade of agencies that have worked in your field, sometimes for premier brands, sometimes for your competition.

But what about the amazing agency that has no experience in your field? You liked them, their budget proposal was in line with what you need, you liked the work they showed you. But, they don’t know your industry. Should you hire them?

Before you cast them aside, consider the following:

  1. If an agency is good, its people are chameleons capable of absorbing data and information to quickly learn your field. It’s their expertise you want, and that expertise is transferable to anything, from farm equipment to fine dining. That’s the very nature of agencies. They are experts at what they DO, and they become experts at applying it to what you OFFER.
  2. They aren’t tired of your field. Agencies that have lots of experience in your industry have likely churned through thousands of ideas and hundreds of tactics in creating work for others. By the time they get to you, you may not be getting their freshest work.
  3. They’ll bring a fresh perspective. On the flip side of the same coin, the agency that hasn’t been immersed in your industry for years can evaluate your marketing efforts and those of your competition with new eyes. The creative that feels old and stale to you can spark new ideas in an agency that hasn’t been living with/rolling in it for years. This approach worked well enough for Doritos that for several years they held a contest to create their annual Super Bowl ad. No experience necessary.
  4. What else have they done? Ask the agency for references from clients that were in your shoes: those that hired the agency despite it not having experience. Ask them if they’ve won awards in an industry that was new to them. Ask to see results from work they did for a client in a new industry.

Bottom line: hire an agency that’s never worked in your industry, and as long as you’ve done your homework about them, you’re likely to have picked yourself a winner that will help you stand out above the fray.