We really, really love what we do.
Outsourcing your marketing can be stressful, especially when you don’t already have an established partner or agency. In my experience, having been on both sides of the company-agency relationship, I recommend these 5 things in order to maximize your experience.
As a creative partner with a focus on a strategy-first approach, it is important to share as much information about the business as you reasonably can. This helps your partner truly understand your goals and objectives, ensuring results are aligned or improvements can be made appropriately. And this is not only true for the business, but for you as a partner in this relationship. You should be able to talk openly about your likes and dislikes – even though we would all like to believe that we are focused on being objective and not subjective – we will often be subjective because marketing effectiveness is often fed by emotion.
The second part of this is honesty. Due to our human nature, there is always a fear of hurting someone’s feelings when we tell them the truth. However, this fear can ultimately hurt your partnership if not overcome. There are ways to be honest without being hurtful and still be able to accomplish a great end result. And this goes both ways. Your creative partner should also be able to be honest with you. If you have an idea or thought – they should guide you as to whether that meets the goals and objectives you originally stated. If they are appeasing you versus aligning to results, then ultimately the relationship will not last. And I’m not saying that to be harsh, I’m saying it because you are in this partnership for results – a win-win for both sides. If one side is being honest and transparent and the other is not, you will eventually lose trust.
Many will say they already feel they have established a good culture of openness and honesty among their immediate team, and I would encourage this to broaden out to extended partners as well. As this article from the Impraise blog mentions: The higher the level of honesty the higher the likelihood of creating a strong relationship built on trust.
Sharing business goals and objectives, as mentioned above, is important to maintain a strategic foundation – but this goes a bit beyond that. I have seen the most success in client/agency relationships where the client gives the agency a seat at the table and is treated as a true partner. Your agency should, and will want to, bring proactive ideas but that can be difficult if they aren’t sure what is happening in the business. Assuming you chose an agency who knows your audience, and combining that knowledge with a good, clear understanding of your business direction should help raise marketing effectiveness overall.
This also means taking value into consideration when it comes to the work required. Haggling or negotiation to some extent happens in many business relationships, but the old adage of doing work on “spec” or “let me see your ideas and then I’ll decide if I want to pay for them” – is a not only outdated in approach, but doesn’t help your marketing partner do the best work they can for you.
This is where “sharing truly is caring.”
Almost any relationship expert will tell you that clear communication matters. So where does this tend to fall apart the most in business? When there are multiple stakeholders involved in communicating between parties (agency/client). Both sides of this partnership should always have one (1) main source of information. This helps to ensure clarity.
I’ve had meetings that involved over 20 people on one call and at the end, not one of us knew who had what next action or what those actions were. Everyone on the call provided opinions and differing views of next steps . . . and no one had the authority to make the final decision. This not only leads to frustration and confusion, but also potential budget waste for time spent without that clarity.
My recommendation to avoid this is to establish a project lead. The lead can pass a draft document around to everyone that wants to provide input and then take all the input to the person who has the authority on final decisions for marketing. The decision maker then can then determine what makes sense to execute and take that to your agency partner.
I would also recommend you clearly establish a process with your team upfront. Let them know that you appreciate their input and will take it into consideration but not necessarily implement all suggestions. (This is important because I’ve seen many times where team members are frustrated with the process if their thoughts are not executed.) Laying the foundation for how this process will work and again, clearly communicating to all involved will help to alleviate potential challenges in the future. A good business partnership takes work and commitment from both parties – these tips from Score.org can help: https://www.score.org/resource/7-tips-making-business-partnership-work
Your partner should be able to deliver ideas and solutions, not just take orders.
If you are hiring an agency for their expertise, make sure you allow them to insert their knowledge into the situation – even if you feel like you already know what you want in a project or task. Your agency has experience and may be able to ask questions you may not have thought of.
The best outcome for any project or campaign that I’ve been involved in always had a client contact that gave the agency room to think about the challenge and determine solutions to meet the objectives. And good agencies provide rationale for their recommendations, follow client input carefully, and integrate their experience and expertise with the audience.
How many times have you walked away from a meeting or discussion thinking one thing, only to find out the other party heard something different? This can be common in marketing as creative often includes being able to visualize a concept that not everyone interprets the same. Because everyone is wired differently in how they interpret information, the best way to communicate expectations is to not only discuss them directly but to also document the key points.
Based on my experience, I would strongly suggest that when you discuss a project with your agency, ask them to follow-up with a creative brief where you can make sure you are all on the same page before proceeding. This will ensure both parties understand the requirements and results expected. Additionally, it will also document the initial project scope that you can reference later on as needed – just in case the scope changes or additional costs are incurred.
All of this really boils down to communication. The more you can communicate the better (not just the amount of information, but also consistently providing updates/changes along the way.)
Investments in marketing can be expensive, therefore knowing how to get the most from your agency matters. And just like any relationship, there is a give and take – a careful balance – that helps to create great marketing.