Selecting the right agency partners for Marketing to Farmers

by Diane Martin
March 23, 2017

Selecting the right agency

Before you start, make your agency search more efficient by knowing which agency model is best for your ag business.

Full Disclosure: I am the President and CEO of Rhea + Kaiser, a marketing agency with current clients and deep roots in agriculture. I have some thoughts on considerations and strategies when selecting agency partners for your ag brands. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that I don’t lead the witness to R+K and our value proposition. We recognize that we are not right for every ag business, and not every ag business is right for R+K.

If you’ve ever conducted an agency review or switched agencies, you know that the process is expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining. A comprehensive search, whether led by marketing, procurement or an outside consultant, can take as little as 90 days or as long seven or eight months and requires as much planning as it does execution (if not more).

It’s tempting to cast a wide net to see what’s out there and build the vision as you go. But window-shopping can be a waste of your and the participating agencies’ time. At a minimum, define the type of business problems you’re trying to solve, the range of services your brand needs and how you’d like to interact with your agency partner(s).

Then it’s time to think about the type of agency model that best aligns with your needs.

What Type of Agency is Best?

While one agency model makes sense for one client, it may not make sense for you. And one agency may accomplish great things for some brands, but it may flounder with yours.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of agency model. And there are varied and conflicting theories on whether to work with one agency or a roster of specialty agencies, to hire ag only or broad industry experience, or to hire independent or holding-company firms. As you’re charting your agency search strategy, here are some things to consider when evaluating different agency models.




independent agency with some ag experience


global consumer agencies


specialty service shop


creative boutiques


Selecting freelancers



  • Faster onboarding process
  • Reduced project cycle-time for technical reviews
  • Leverage existing industry relationships
  • Agency leadership vested in your business
  • Shared passion for agriculture
  • Myopic view of audiences and marketing
  • Heavy-reliance on gut and experience
  • Fewer “borrowable ideas” from other industry work




  • Broader experience to learn/borrow from
  • Cross-functional thinking & implementation
  • Willingness to listen and adapt w/client
  • Access to agency leadership
  • Quality of work may vary across disciplines
  • Full-service, independent mindset may be barrier to working with agency partners
  • Owners may over-prioritize P/L vs. investments in innovation




  • Fresh, unjaded view of audience and industry
  • Network/partners for special solutions and global coverage
  • Ahead of the curve resources (e.g., predictive analytics, media modeling)
  • Slower, more complex onboarding with unvested, non-ag teams
  • Varying levels of experience and expertise across office/partners
  • Operations not always holistically integrated
  • Typically, higher pricing structure and overhead
  • Agency leadership less available/accessible




  • Best-in-class capabilities in defined discipline or channel
  • Turnkey delivery of services
  • Robust exploration of ideas in channel/discipline
  • Require more client time to manage agency integration
  • Often lack broader view of audience, brand and strategies
  • Tend to think and operate in channel/discipline silo
  • Cookie-cutter/overly simplified solutions




  • Plethora of creative ideas
  • Affordable pricing
  • Ideas not always linked to strategies
  • Limited business or integrated orientation
  • Require more client time to manage agency integration
  • Limited resources (e.g. implementation capabilities)




  • Specialized capabilities
  • No contractual hassles
  • Subject-matter experts
  • Accommodating to direction and feedback
  • Lower cost
  • Less vested in your business
  • Project focus often means limited big-picture perspective
  • Less collaborative, focused on completing the project
  • Can over-commit their time to multiple clients


Agency searches can become fatiguing for all parties if you invite too many agencies and too many types of agencies to the review. And searches can lead to disappointing, expensive outcomes if you and your team have not defined, prioritized and agreed upon your needs and vision for your new agency partner(s). To ensure the best results and get your new relationship started off on the best foot, plan, prioritize, then search.

Diane Martin
About the Author – Diane Martin

Independent Consultant. Before starting her freelance career, Diane worked at Rhea + Kaiser for more than 25 years. During her tenure she put her strong critical thinking and creative problem solving skills to work across a variety of clients.

1 Comment

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