If you’ve looked to hire a new marketing agency, it’s likely that you’ve come across a list of agencies that are geographically close to you, and then a list that is located someplace else.  That someplace else can really be any city that is not the one you live in.

So there is a debate that you wind up having with yourself. It’s an inevitable question that immediately comes to your mind:  Do I need to have my marketing agency located down the street?

There are arguments from both sides of the equation.  Below are a few thoughts and considerations when making the final choice.

Is meeting face-to-face important to you?

Local agencies will make the argument that getting face time is incredibly important. National agencies will counter by saying that they can send someone your way and meet with you as needed.  The larger marketing agencies will also make the case that it’s a virtual world and that getting face time is as simple as a Skype meeting.

So where does it net out?  I have worked in the B2B market with both local agencies and large global agencies.  In my opinion, it really comes down to preference.  You’ll get face-time no matter what (if you request it).  When I was with one of the largest software vendors in the world, we had a huge global agency, and I saw them all the time. They were at every major meeting, and I spoke with them daily.  In contrast, when I was with a small (think sub-$50m in revenue) software company, I had an agency down the street.  The funny thing is that the only time I ever saw that local agency face-to-face is when we met bi-annually for lunch.

To me, the face-time argument is completely a personal one.  I did not need (or want) all the face time.  My POV is that an agency is more productive when they’re working – not sitting on the litany of calls or meetings that us corporate marketers are so accustomed to.

Rather, I wanted the best agency for the job. In the small company example, the agency down the street had a specific skill-set as a Hubspot marketing agency that appealed to my strategy.  So while the local scenario was a nice-to-have, it wasn’t why I chose them as our digital agency of record.

Do you need deep knowledge of your specific geography?

Local agencies will make the argument that they have specific knowledge of your city.  They live there, and they know the culture, have the connections and understand prime spots for advertising or other marketing tactics.  Large national or global agencies will argue that they have the same (or similar) data available to them. In addition, they can hire representatives locally.

In addition, the type of agency in question makes a big difference. For example, are they a digital marketing agency operating on the web, or are they truly a feet-on-the-street experiential agency?  This matters when thinking about the types of tactics they’ll be running (and how much local knowledge they need).

So where does it net out?  This one really depends upon your business.  For example, if you’re a small business (think local law firm or Deli) focused only in a specific geography, and you’re looking for an agency to help you influence the market, then perhaps a local agency with the right contacts can move the needle a bit further than a national one.  On the flip side, if you’re a national or global brand that goes after a broad market that spans many geographies, I’d say that having your agency local to your office is probably not necessary.

Does Time-Zone play a factor?

Local agencies are in your time zone. They’ll generally work the same schedule that you do.  National or global agencies can have offices all over the place.  And depending on who you’re working with, or where their staff is located the time-zone can play a significant factor.

So where does it net out?  This is where I tend to draw the line on national or global agencies.  My preference is always to have the agency in the same time-zone as my staff and me.  There are a lot of top marketing agencies out there.  But having to juggle time zones (say east coast to west coast, or even worse, overseas), is a recipe for frustration.

Final Thoughts:   

The mantra I’ve always followed, no matter whether I’m at a big company or a small one, is to find the agency that will do the best job for the money I’m paying them.  Sometimes these agencies are down the street, and sometimes they’re located many states away.  In the end, find the best marketing agency for your business. Look for the one that has the best potential to make a significant impact. Worry less about where they are located (unless it’s necessary for your business).