Embrace silos to deliver value

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Spend any time working at any type of agency and one thing is clear: All agencies operate in silos.

Conventional wisdom, in service of integration, indicates silos are intrinsically bad, and it's the job of agency management to tear down the walls, but by embracing and nurturing functional silos, an agency's expertise can actually flourish.

By functional silos, I mean vertically aligned teams that are expert in their respective fields. These silos shape working communities that can reach consensus, make decisions and act quickly and effectively.

When properly orchestrated, functional silos can be beneficial and do not prohibit active collaboration. The key to harnessing that and weaving disparate silos into a cohesive, cross-functional matrix is to ensure business objectives are aligned.

The notion of embracing functional silos is a practical reality for some agencies. G2 USA is a combination of four distinct agencies: G2 Branding & Design, G2 Direct & Digital, G2 Interactive and G2 Promotional Marketing. These companies were combined under a single P&L and a unified management structure in 2008, but rather than dismantle the discipline teams, we kept the functional silos. This may seem counterintuitive, but there is a method to our madness.

Despite what press and industry pundits would like us to believe, marketers aren't buying integrated services en masse from agencies—at least not yet. The à la carte mentality persists on the client side. An agency of specialists who work with teams of other specialists can develop an offering that can be turned on or off, depending on needs.

Trust is paramount to enabling harmonious collaboration, but so is respect and recognition that strong voices and opinions can uncover big ideas for marketing programs.

Understanding how to communicate effectively in a retail environment is very different from knowing how to develop an effective social media or direct mail campaign. An agency of generalists limits your ability to deliver real impact.

The agency of the future may look nothing like the agencies we see today. We need to function at a consultative level to deliver a precision-based approach, versus advocating a “360-degree approach” for all clients.

By embracing the need for specific expertise, and using them at the appropriate time, agencies will be able to deliver their clients the most value.

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