Marketing Agency, Specialist Partner or Product Supplier: Which is better for you?
You’ve got your campaign all drawn up. You know who you’re targeting, when and why. You may even know what the whole campaign will look like. Now, you want to really give your campaign some punch and add a product or two. Something your audience can take away. It could be a thank-you gift, awareness building give-away or a prize for the lucky winner. Whichever it is, a physical gift will wow your consumers and cement your relationship. So, how do you go about finding that perfect product? Do you have a regular specialist supplier who is always ready to meet your needs? Or do you jump online and grab some pricing off a webstore? Maybe, this time, you let a marketing agency find the right one for your brand and work it in to your plan?
The good news is that all options are valid! All avenues will lead you to a product that is on-brand and suits your message. But which is better? To help you decide which option suits your situation best, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons. If ever there was an unbiased comparison of marketing agencies, specialist promotional product partners and product only suppliers, this is it.
Full-Service Marketing Agency
An agency can definitely get you the right product for your campaign. Agencies can also design your entire campaign for you. Besides sourcing pertinent products, a full-service marketing agency has the ability to coordinate the entire marketing of a brand from conception to delivery.
Logo, voice and tone, corporate colours, fonts and visual assets, content and scheduling are all part of the agency package. And of course, you can pick and choose which of those services you require.
To help your brand or campaign reach its potential, a marketing agency will employ its own promotional product team. Depending on the size of the agency, it could be one or two very talented individuals doing the heavy work. They might outsource any jobs that they can’t fit in, as well. In bigger organisations, each arm could have its own team to look after you – from designers to content writers and SEO experts. All your bases will be covered with a full-service marketing agency.
Pros of full-service marketing agency:
- You don’t have to organize all the aspects of your campaign yourself (printers, manufacturers, product designers).
- You don’t have to vet the vendors yourself or take the time to build relationships.
- There is one channel for reporting – You will have one point of contact who understands your goals and vision. They will guide you through the whole process.
- They can coordinate the entire campaign to have each aspect launched simultaneously.
- One point of contact means details are consistent across the campaign (colours, designs, sizes etc. through the print, products and digital assets), which gives the end product a critical cohesiveness.
Cons of full-service marketing agency:
- Marketing agencies aren’t usually specialised for products. This means expertise may be lacking in some areas.
- Contacts and relationships for outsourced services may be fewer than a single service provider. This issue is mitigated when the company is big enough to have a whole team for one area. For example, a large marketing agency may have a promotional products team with the same knowledge and background as a promotional products company.
- You are entrusting the look and feel of a product and the branding on it to someone outside of the organisation.
- You pay more for the agency to be your go-between with outsourced services.
Specialist Promotional Products Partner
A specialist promotional products partner works closely with you to find or create products tailored to your campaign. Most often, you will send them a brief that includes what you’re after, who it’s for and what you want it to do for you. With that information, your account manager (and the team, if it’s a bigger company) will source or create the best product for your campaign. A promotional products partner will coordinate the design, manufacture, decoration and shipping of a product for you. Additionally, your account manager should be following up on the success of your campaign and looking to your next one.
Like marketing agencies, a company’s size will affect the level of service you receive. Small businesses have a one-on-one feel but may lack a larger organisation’s buying power.
Regardless of size, expertise is a promotional product partner’s best asset. Some (like Impact) have been in the game for decades. Years of experience mean that they’re on top of the trends in the industry. It also means that they’ve had time to develop strong relationships with their supply chain, delivering you better quality and prices.
Great specialist partners, whether their specialty is products, SEO, copywriting or design, also have complementary services that make your life easier. Content writers will have schedulers, SEO specialists give you custom reports and promotional products partners can give you warehousing, online portals and other helpful things.
Pros of products partner:
- You have more control over the production and ordering process.
- Can be cheaper than a full-service agency.
- You can guarantee the look of product and presentation of logo through the proofing process.
- You get a dedicated account manager to oversee every aspect of the process from conception to delivery, and including follow up.
- A custom product can be made for your brand with every detail considered – down to the design on the swing tag.
- You get access to a team of individuals with specialised knowledge of the products industry. Their contacts across the world get you the perfect product at the best price.
Cons of product partner:
- A large range of options and styles can be overwhelming.
- A product supplier cannot coordinate the full campaign with digital and content assets.
- You may be repeating yourself for every vendor you’re working with. Especially if you’re getting multiple quotes.
- A products partner may be biased in which product they present to you. That bias may be based on price, personal preference and ease of supply.
- Products may be considered outside of the context of your whole campaign.
- Large projects can take time from design, to manufacture, to delivery.
Product Only Supplier
A product only supplier is your one stop shop for general products at great prices. While they may not offer custom-made products, their ease and speed of service is exceptional. Many product suppliers operate through online stores. This means you can have pricing and place orders without the back and forth of dealing with salespeople – great for when you need a quote ASAP and have multiple approvals to navigate on your end.
Product only suppliers make bulking up your campaign, or stocking your office’s branded merchandise an easy job for a Friday afternoon.
On the other hand, some product only suppliers offer a single niche product. If it is something that aligns perfectly with your brand and resonates with your customers, that thing could be the only promotional product you need. Products like that often come at premium price, but are worth it for the ROI they will give your campaign.
Pros of product supplier:
- Almost immediate quoting.
- What you see is what you get.
- Self-service with online stores.
- Well priced standard products.
- Specialty niche products with great quality that can’t be found anywhere else.
Cons of product supplier:
- Little opportunity for customisation outside of branding.
- Customer experience may feel transactional.
- Limited product range from one or two manufacturers, or a single product.
- No understanding of whole campaign and objectives.
- Do not offer any other services outside their product.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you.
If you have the budget, but not the team or connections to create the campaign you want, an agency may be the right fit for you.
On the other hand, if you’ve got the details of your vision clearly, you like to control the process from beginning to end and you only need someone to handle the creation and integration of the physical assets, a promotional products partner will work well for you.
If it’s the last minute and you don’t need any of the bells and whistles, go for the product only supplier.
All are correct and all will deliver you a product to complement your brand.