Get the best from your marketing agency: Part 1

18 July 2018

It’s a sad reality that few companies really get the best from their marketing agency. It’s not anyone’s fault specifically – both you and they are working as hard as possible. The reason is, rather, the radio interference between how you both work together. Collaboration is lacking and collaboration takes two.

Agencies often bend over backwards for their clients.

And it can feel good to know that your agency will do that for you – that when you say jump they’ll all but trip over in a rush to say “how high!”. This is not great standard operating procedure. After all, are you consistently excellent when you’re bent over backwards? And it is consistency, not the latest gadget, sharpest mind, or best software, that is the key to marketing success – digital or traditional.

No, a good working relationship between you, the client, and your marketing agency is smooth sailing: your business is the ship, your agency is the crew and your market segment is the sea itself.

What you’re about to read is part 1 of an article all about what you can do on your side of the client-agency relationship to get the “marketing sailors” you’ve hired to pilot your ship into the most bountiful waters as smoothly, quickly and effectively as possible.

Minimise delays

A big percentage of your marketing budget is used by your agency for “account management”. This is all the planning, organising, leading and controlling work that people within an agency must do before, around and after the deliverables sent to you.

Because your agency has multiple clients and a hectic workload, when a job reaches a state of “pending client feedback”, everything comes to a halt. The agency staff who can now go no further on your job move straight onto work for a different client. Orientating themselves to every new brief requires some “account management” time. This happens every time your agency has to stop on one job and start on another.

Therefore, the fewer and shorter the client-side delays in a project or campaign, the more momentum it has and the less account management is involved. So, minimise delays on your end and you’ll increase the overall productivity of your agency for a given number of working hours.

Have a Chief Marketing Officer

Every big corporate has a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in the C-Suite just slightly down the table from the CEO, COO and CFO. A company big enough to even have a C-suite will probably do all its marketing in house (other than highly specialised services). Thing is, even if you don’t have an internal marketing team, you still need someone who acts as the CMO. We’ll call them the “project owner” from here on.

This is a single person on your staff who has the power over and responsibility for day to day marketing decisions. This person should only report to the executives in charge of overall business direction. (The issue of them getting tangled up in middle management is so bad that it’s got its own section in Part 2).

Now, it’s tempting in a small business to just give add the “marketing officer” function to an office junior, PA or receptionist. If this person is responsible, ambitious and growth-minded, doing this can work really well. If this person was told at hiring that their job was to answer phones and set appointments, then it’s unfair on everyone when your marketing agency starts sending them 20-point lead-acquisition plans, detailed AdWords analytics reports and schedules of highly technical digital maintenance tasks.

It’s a two-way street

The agency-client relationship is also a client-agency relationship. Things must go both ways. The most effective way to ensure this dialogue happens is through scheduled reviews. These are the key way to engage with your agency strategically and should be built into your campaign planning.

Setting a schedule for regular and structured call-ins means both you and your agency can be proactive. Each round of testing is discussed when it’s fresh. Also this means that when you have something you want to raise with your agency, you know there is already time set aside to discuss it – rather than emailing brainwaves through at 11pm on a Tuesday night. When you need to talk big picture stuff, the scheduled review is the right time.

Another thing to enshrine in your strategy is who your project owner’s main contact will be at the agency. Very likely it won’t be the person, the BDM perhaps, who introduced you to the agency initially. Once your project owner and your agency contact establish their working relationship, they become the ones to be CC’ed on and to read every email to keep track of what’s going on.

Cementing this relationship is important for another reason. As your marketing company puts the magnifying glass over your business, it’s going to find random things that are outside its remit but which still deserve your attention. These can be problems, like obsolete roadside signs or former staff whose social media account say they still work for you, to good things such as a client of ours that recently appeared by happenstance in a Youtube video with 1.5 million views.

Your agency moves fast, but your audience doesn’t

While you may see a lot of snappy work from your agency in preparing a campaign, do not be surprised that it is launched to zero immediate impact. Do not close down your marketing when this happens. As a whole, an audience is a slow and clumsy beast. Your your agency is like a single cattle dog racing around using swift, singular and strategic actions to turn the collective mind of this soft and loose assemblage of individuals who generally aren’t paying attention and often aren’t making informed decisions.

This is why we say time and again that launching a campaign is not the goal. Achieving your business goals is the goal. The marketing to get you there will take time. Even in this crazy, sped-up digital world, success comes from consistently reinforcing your message, benefits, identity and offer.

So, when your campaign launches, that is not the time to consider your marketing to be “done”, to stop pushing and then adopt a wait and see approach. No, post-launch is the time to investigate, analyse and refine. Your agency has a lot more to do and they need you to stay engaged after this first big hurdle.

The client-agency connection

If all this sounds like you’re meeting your marketing agency a lot further to halfway than most of your other service providers, you’d be right. This is because marketing is a central ingredient in your success, not a side dish to it. Marketing just works better as a partnership between client and agency.

Work closely with your agency and you’ll see that they are not there to pad their expenses, inflate invoices and have fun playing with graphic design and social media posting. Nope, marketing in the digital age is hyper-competitive. Hours are long, the work comes in a constant barrage.

The complacency of Mad Men is pure fantasy. Modern marketers are instead groups of glasses-wearing communications, management, IT and design nerds beavering away on all the different digital platforms and tools to keep the complicated, messy and always-evolving machine of connecting you with your audience on track.

Meet them halfway by following the tips above and they can do that all the better.

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