Marketing agencies play an important role for clients and businesses. They are solution-oriented and provide extra support for short-staffed marketing teams. One challenge, however, that clients face is that marketing agencies occasionally push to perform services they aren’t always equipped to deliver.

The Trojan War provides a model for how marketing agencies can overcome this obstacle. In Homer’s ‘The Iliad,’ Odysseus’s insights about the Trojans exploited their logistical and psychological weaknesses. The result? The Trojan Horse – a tactic based on a strategy that helped the Greeks achieve their objective. Like Odysseus, smart marketers will always ask and answer these four questions.

  • What is the insight? (The Trojans are opportunists and suck-ups.)
  • What is our objective? (Win back Helen.)
  • What is our strategy? (Deceive the Trojans.)
  • What are the tactics we will use? (The wooden horse.)

Agencies that really want to uncover the client’s need have to dig deep and continuously ask the question “Why?” every time the client directs the agency toward execution. When the client says, “I want to build a website,” the agency should say “YES.” However, the dialogue should not stop there. One fun tip agencies can use is a trick from improv that actors call the
“yes, and” principle. Say “YES,” but then ask…

And why do you want to build a website?
To attract prospects.

And why do you want to attract prospects?
Because we have a lot of client churn.

And why do you have a lot of client churn?
Because we have bad service.

And why do you have bad service?
Because of the people we hire.

Suddenly, what started out as a simple need for a website turns into a more useful, strategic discussion about bigger business issues. A website may address some of these issues but the strategic marketer will identify deeper, more holistic root issues that also need addressing.

Most marketing agencies uncover symptoms instead of diagnosing the root of a problem. Agencies need to realize they are in the problem solving business – and their problem solving needs a strategic underpinning.

By continuing to ask “WHY,” the best agencies more effectively solve business problems instead of just prescribing solutions. They focus on uncovering the insights that inform objectives, strategies, and tactics that provide real solutions to challenges.

I am thrilled to write this blog for Swarm, because I truly believe that they listen to clients, ask “WHY,” and act upon the insights they uncover. This is not the
modus operandi for most agencies.

Joe Koufman
is founder and CEO of AgencySparks, an Atlanta-based company focused on connecting brands with marketing agencies.