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How can integrated agencies prove they are just as specialist as a boutique agency?

In the debate over how to best deliver specialist skills to B2B clients, it’s vital to take a step back first and look at the bigger picture, argues Kate Cox

Lots of agencies are keen to call themselves boutiques. But unhelpfully for clients, they’re not consistent with what they mean. They can be smaller agencies with a specialism, channel specialists, or category/industry specialists. Some are

B2B agencies

that don’t do B2C. 

However a boutique styles itself, an integrated agency can sound like less of a specialist in comparison. But appearances are deceptive. Not only can integrated agencies prove they are the specialist their clients need, they can bring critical advantages to the partnership.

Prove your specialists are integrated as a team  

The best integrated agencies should not only know how to recruit specialists at the top of their game, but how to meld them into one high performing team. 

Great integrated agencies should equip themselves with experts in every skill and knowledge their clients need, whatever that mix might be: digital experts, a media department with specialist buyers and planners in every relevant channel, category-specific strategists, perhaps a global events team. The same applies creatively.  From B2B copywriters and brand design specialists to 3D designers and motion graphics experts, the integrated agency has to show it has the right blend, all under one roof.  

Therein lies the strength of the integrated agency. Specialists, working with other specialists and integrated thinkers, feeding off each other’s ideas. It’s a source of ground-breaking, effective solutions. 

Solve business problems holistically

The solutions to business problems are almost never isolated to one channel.  Inevitably, a boutique that is, say, an AR specialist, will tend to look for answers in the one channel it knows well. Integrated agencies, unburdened by channel prejudice, must start with the business problem, look at the big picture, and provide holistic solutions.

Demonstrate your client category expertise

Every integrated agency should by default be a specialist in their clients’ industries, their various categories and the sales channels in which they operate. They should understand their market and customers inside out and know the ‘niches within the niches’. 

Leverage your diversity

The cross-pollination of creativity, channel and category knowledge in an integrated agency makes for pioneering

thought leadership.

To prove their specialist insight, integrated agencies must become authorities, lead the conversation and share what they know with their clients and the industry. 

Show sustained achievement 

The best integrated agencies can demonstrate client retention over long periods (10 years +). Being referred by them, winning new clients and specialist industry awards are all material demonstrations an agency is outperforming its competitors.

Demonstrate a success-follows-success mentality

For boutiques and integrated agencies alike, the proof point that really counts is the client’s commercial performance. Agencies that make sure their clients succeed have little left to prove.

Any client wrestling with a ‘boutique or integrated’ decision must ask themselves: ‘What is the broader context of our specialist need?’ Because big picture thinking is what true integrated agencies do best.


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