Best and Brightest: The UnAgency Approach to Creative Outsourced Marketing

Best and Brightest: The UnAgency Approach to Creative Outsourced Marketing

By Stacey Piper

Watching the Oscars this week, I was moved by Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress. She said, “I’ve always wanted to be different, and now I realize I just need to be myself.” She described how she was encouraged by a mentor who told her, “You’re gonna lay a trail for yourself.”

I’ve been fortunate to attract a diverse crew of experts as I pursued my own passion to form Piper Strategies in 2017. My team is a tapestry of talent, many pursuing their passions alongside their work at Piper—painters and illustrators, textile artists, novelist, childhood nutrition champion, senior citizen advocate, and more. By nurturing our passions outside of work, we bring our most inspired selves to every project. The result? Authentic marketing that ignites results.

A fulfilled life translates to brilliant ideas and top-notch execution for our clients. You get the best of both worlds: expertise and a fire that burns bright.

Fire. Passion. Creativity. That’s the fuel that drives Piper Strategies. In forging my path outside of a corporate marketing department, I sought to build a full-service, integrated marketing agency that flips the script on how advertising and public relations agencies partner with organizations. We dig deep to understand your goals and craft a winning plan that is both pragmatic and inspired. And having walked in your shoes, we’re capable of executing it, if necessary. My team is composed of seasoned, creative experts, all former in-house talent at B2B, B2G, and nonprofit organizations, who are well-versed at how to work effectively in a corporate environment. This past experience enables us to uniquely meet the clients where they are, empathize with resource-constrained environments, and pivot with shifting priorities and budgets.

The Makings of an UnAgency

In thinking about our differentiators in internal structure and client engagement, I realized we’ve become almost the antithesis of a traditional marketing consultancy—an “UnAgency.” Piper Strategies is not the first and definitely not the last, but an UnAgency may be exactly what you need to tackle the challenges of achieving your marketing goals in today’s climate of limited resources and constrained budgets.

The UnAgency model is a flexible, client-centric approach. The term may have been coined by Jennifer Sutton, CEO of BRIGHT Marketing, after the 2008 recession, when organizations eliminated or severely cut internal marketing departments. As the market rebounded, clients expected a more comprehensive approach from agencies instead of the traditional, siloed approach in which services—digital, public relations, advertising, communications, event planning—are managed by distinct, disconnected groups, each with its own budgets, goals, and priorities.

These same needs apply today, and Piper Strategies meets them by leveraging strategic doers in client accounts. The UnAgency model ensures the “best fit” for each project, aligning individual strengths and passions with specific client needs. Each member brings his or her unique spark to the table, fueled by personal pursuits outside of work. A fulfilled life translates to brilliant ideas and top-notch execution for our clients. You get the best of both worlds: expertise and a fire that burns bright.

Benefits of the UnAgency Model: Building Internal Capacity

The UnAgency approach allows you to leverage strengths fractionally across a team of experts in their domains. And the right UnAgency engages your in-house staff to empower them in their positions and build capacity. Sometimes this means developing the marketing strategy for their in-house team to implement, while also providing skill-gap fill for their corporate talent. Other times it means walking further down the path with the client, for example, informing a nonprofit about Google grants, and then providing tips on how to apply for them. Or building a program such as partner marketing, providing the templates and processes, then training the in-house team on how to keep it going.

Benefits of an UnAgency include:

  • Transparency & Collaboration: Direct communication and integration among clients, their vendors, and specialists.
  • Agility, Versatility, & Flexibility: Ability to quickly scale teams up or down based on project requirements.
  • Transferability & Sustainability: Mentorship for sustainable transfer of knowledge. Implementation within the client’s platforms so ownership of and rights to all products, including source files, remain with the client.
  • Top Talent: Access to a global pool of independent specialists unavailable in traditional agencies and only in place as long as needed.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Focus on building a team based on project needs, reducing overhead costs.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Emphasis on data analysis and performance measurement for targeted results.

According to a LeadPost article, “Rather than simply executing tasks assigned by the client, the unagency takes a more active role in driving the client’s business forward.” At Piper Strategies, we aim to leave clients in a better position after the engagement, one in which they are not reliant on our firm but engage us to enhance and build on their internal resources. In fact, on numerous occasions we have conducted technical interviews for in-house marketing talent and provided onboarding, coaching, and organizational skills assessments.


The biggest difference between working with Piper Strategies and other agencies was in the way you were able to meet us where we are. It felt like you were an extension of the team and very agile in whatever we had going on—structured and organized to stay on top of things. It will be hard for us to recruit for the caliber of the writing and campaign management.

Amelia Johnson—Marketing Manager, GoodMaps

5 Tips for Implementing the UnAgency Model

To efficiently source and vet a qualified UnAgency:

  1. Look for deep industry knowledge. Start with an agency with a proven track record in govcon and technology sectors, one that is well-versed in the unique challenges and opportunities of the government contracting industry and can deliver tailored solutions.

  2. Clearly define project goals and scope up front. The right partner should be inquisitive and open-minded, not just a service provider.

  3. Establish clear communication channels and expectations. Beware of firms that act as order takers and don’t bring established collaboration processes and strategic recommendations.

  4. Utilize tools and methodologies for efficient collaboration. Look for an UnAgency that coordinates its independent specialists with a strong team lead or dedicated project manager and follows a documented approach, with the tools and templates to support it.

  5. Focus on data-driven decision making. Set milestones for measuring success and targets for continuous improvement.

While the UnAgency model isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, it offers a compelling alternative for businesses seeking agility, cost-effectiveness, and access to top talent. It is ideal for clients who want to optimize their marketing budgets and maximize ROI (who doesn’t?) and those looking for more control and flexibility over their marketing campaigns. If you’re looking to break free from traditional agency limitations, roll out the red carpet for the UnAgency model and take control of your marketing destiny.


Want to learn more about the UnAgency approach? Contact me for a consultation with your leadership team.

Contact Piper Strategies

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