Why it's vital for companies everywhere to look beyond London for top agency talent
Sylvie Froger, Founder and Director of relocation agency Simply London, shares why she thinks firms should look beyond London if they want to find the best marketing services for their needs.
Choosing a marketing, PR or web agency is a daunting task - never more so than when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic. As the founder of a London-based business, my natural inclination was to choose a company based here in the capital - surely they'd have the best experience and skillset? How wrong I was to think that.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the way we all work has changed beyond recognition. Things like face-to-face meetings and being in an office five days a week in order to be ‘productive’ have all but vanished. This shift in our collective mindset should be welcomed. We're in a technologically driven world, so why should the choice of businesses we work with, or partner with, be limited to where they’re based?
It makes no sense. It doesn’t matter where you sit, just as long as you do your job well and deliver results.
When we kicked off the journey to find a new web agency for Simply London, my first step was - of course - Google. When I entered my keywords, I expected a slew of Soho or Shoreditch-based agencies to pop up.
But in fact, it was Pixel Kicks - based in Manchester! It was a surprise, but my initial scepticism was soon put to one side when I took a step back and thought about what I needed from a web partner: Is it to know they’re conveniently located just down the road, or whether they are the best in their field, but situated 250 miles away?
Simply London is a people business, so I like people, but I also must have faith and trust in them, just like our clients do with us. Over the years, I've met many London agencies - my overriding impression has been that all too often you're paying for expensive offices and a young team with limited experience who leave for pastures new quickly.
As a result, I knew that London was certainly not a guarantee of the best work.
For me, it’s incredibly important to build long-standing relationships so that those who I work with truly understand what my company is about and what we want to achieve. That can’t happen if turnover is high, if an agency is like a revolving door, or if you’re one client in a big pond of bigger fish.
You also need to have a rapport - in the past that would have required in-person interaction, but we’ve all got adept at embracing Zoom as our primary communication platform. It’s not ideal, but it does work - especially if both sides have existing processes, as it requires organisation and structure.
Another factor over location should be insight and enthusiasm. All too often, agencies market themselves as ‘sector specialists’, but I’m not convinced. Where’s the creative thinking and fresh ideas coming from if you pigeonhole yourself? I want to work with an agency which is inspiring, that can pull from experience learned in other sectors, and that can challenge both my thinking and the status quo. I don’t want regurgitated and lacklustre ideas.
Straight and honest talking should also be big factors in how you choose an agency. I’m not saying that all London firms are cut from the same cloth - I can only speak of my own experiences - I just want to feel safe in the knowledge that I’m dealing with transparent people who command respect by sticking to their proposals and prices.
We all want to know that we’re not being ripped off, but equally, there's a price to pay for good-quality work delivered by a team that is creative, reliable, and collaborative.
This viewpoint isn’t about demonising London agencies, as there are some great ones. I’d simply encourage companies inside London to look to the regions and not dismiss the talent that is out there.
Fancy W1 and EC1 offices, posh lunches, and soundbites are all well and good (or used to be, pre-COVID), but what really matters is the commercial value that’s added to your business. Those experts might just be in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol, or Glasgow.