The decision to invest a significant portion of your marketing budget in an external agency is a major decision in the careers of all marketers – how to make such a crucial choice?
It can take months, even years, planning, outsourcing from an internal stakeholder, and a complicated process of moving away from a job that no longer serves you.
When done right, you can join forces with an agency that will be inherently part of your team, they will work hard on your behalf, increase revenue growth, and help you exceed your goals. However, if it goes wrong, it can mean frustration, loss of momentum and potential stagnation in your marketing efforts.
Like all agencies, Hallam has experienced relationships in both camps. Not only is it disappointing for clients, but it is also difficult for the agency team to be the recipient of an unhappy partnership.
Whether you are looking for a new agency or a sign of dissatisfaction with your current agency, I would recommend investing time working through the points in this article to help you make the most of your agency partnership. We reflect:
Step 1 – Setting the right expectations from the start
Step 2 – ensuring the existence of a documented strategy
Step 3 – Push your agency to provide a working overview
Step 4 – Finding time for fun things
Set the right expectations
The best start to a new relationship is to clarify your expectations. If you are not sure where your finish line is at the start of the race, you are likely to get lost along the way.
Step 1 – Define why
When helping each agency to determine if they are right for you, you must first clearly justify why you are seeking support from the agency. This may seem obvious, but in my experience the context and rationale are out of the original briefing process. By helping each agency understand the bigger picture, details related to the wider business context often help to provide a basis for the agency’s recommendations.
It is good practice to come back to the cause every year or even twice a year and communicate to ensure that you and your agency focus not only on day-to-day delivery but also on the bigger picture.
Step 2 – Do your research
If your business needs a tactical SEO delivery agency, you can still turn to agencies that specialize in strategic full-service consulting, you may both be disappointed later in your relationship! Before you press go, get a proposal or solicitation from the agency that will compile the list. You can usually get a good feel for the agency from their website, from the agency’s mandate package that they can send you, or by using the agency’s review site such as Register of recommended agencies for drums.
Step 3 – Develop a clear overview
Creating a waterproof summary is the foundation of your new agency relationship for at least the first 6-12 months. I recommend adding at least the following information:
- Summary – Here you should clearly define “why”, as described above, and provide the background to the project. Try to articulate why you are looking for an agency, how it fits into the context of achieving the broader business objectives, and what led you to decide to enter the agency’s market.
- Company, product or service and market overview – What does that stain say! Include future market forecasts and information about your competitors and customers.
- Sales and marketing overview – Provide a description of your sales and marketing funnel, detailing the customer’s individuals and target audience, an overview of key stakeholders, and a team skill set.
- Agency requirements – What is important to you and your team, eg “full service agency”, “experienced company in the B2B space”, “excellent chemistry”. Let us know what your main priorities are and what your “favorite” preferences are.
- Winning behaviors – Think about what your agency needs to provide constant value in the coming years. For example, “weekly reporting and practical overview of data”, “collaboration with other marketing agencies”, “understanding the wider digital landscape”, “building the internal team”.
- Main requirements for claims – It includes the main objectives, the basic services or services required and the budget available, as well as all the details of the RFP process.
Step 4 – Request a chemical test
Often, senior people in agencies are not necessarily the people who offer the job, as they are senior department heads or dedicated business development professionals. Make sure that even if the proposed strategy, outputs, and project challenges are throwing you away, you are investing in having your team gel well with the agency’s delivery team who actually do the work. Never underestimate the importance of creating a team with good chemistry!
What does it look like in practice? It can be a simple question of how to get the whole team together, without a real agenda, when getting to know each other, getting to know each other’s roles, skill set and communication styles. Not only does this produce energy for your team, it also energizes the agency’s delivery team, which inspires them to work with you. Win-win!
Make sure there is a documented strategy
A valuable springboard for any agency’s marketing activities is a clearly defined strategy. Without it, you can always be one step ahead of your competition with one in place! Make sure you and your agency agree after the start and check regularly:
- Business “super purpose” – It can be a top-level revenue goal or a specific business goal, such as “expanding products to the US market,” “triple revenue in five years.” Try not to set it as a marketing goal, as it may distract teams.
- Priority marketing objectives – Ideally, identify 3 or 4 key marketing goals that will help you achieve the ultimate goal of your business. This could be, for example, “increasing organic market share”, “Increasing revenue through paid media by 20% compared to the same period last year”.
- Digital tactics – Now that you have your marketing goals, you and your agency can begin to map out the tactics you intend to use to achieve those goals. For example, “implement blogs to increase more organic traffic,” “diversify media networks to include Facebook.” It should be led by your agency and signed by your team.
- KPIs – What key performance metrics are important to your business and how you and your agency will work together to measure success. What is the benchmark, how does the team know when it has succeeded, how do you want these KPIs to be reported?
Invest in your relationship
Hopefully, you should strive for your agency so that you finally feel like a continuation of your marketing team. According to new data from the relationship management company Aprais, as described article from the drum, there are seven behaviors that are attributes of a well-functioning team relationship.
- Trusted to deliver and behave honestly
- Resilience and recovery from the crisis
- Challenge the status quo and fight conflicts directly
- Team responsibility
- Regular communication and open dialogue
- Clear goals
- Functional competence
If you make sure that your agency team, especially your account manager, is constantly trying to build these behaviors into a partnership, your employment will increase tenfold. You may need to figure out which behaviors are most important to you and that may change over time. I have seen that resilience and crisis management have been of great importance to many marketers over the last year, but moving forward can challenge the status quo, which will become an even more important sign of the Agency’s team moving forward.
Contact your agency for a conclusive overview
Shrinking the infinite amount of data produced by each digital channel and highlighting the importance of that data can be a challenge even for experts! I found an offer from a market research firm, CFR, that really sounded to me.
“Ultimately, without context and without context, data is meaningless, you can’t turn data into information. And information is useless without being able to apply it to anything, creating wisdom.”
This is a great way to watch it! Make sure you want to give your agency a context as to why something has happened, not just that it has happened. Using monthly reporting calls or quarterly business surveys to examine existing data is often a very good time to re-examine the strategy and apply the context derived from the performance data.
Make time for fun things
Every relationship needs turns to have fun! This is one of the main focus areas of the agency’s customer service department to make our customers feel valued and provide a great experience. Part of this is spending time purposefully for a job interview, setting aside a speech or a couple of afternoons, celebrating meetings to celebrate progress on the road, and creating space for the team to further secure relationships.
Over the past year, it has been particularly difficult to find time for this type of activity during the lock, but hopefully it will soon see a revival of a good old-fashioned agency … I know my clients are looking forward to it!
If you would like to talk to Hallam about whether we are the right agency partner for you, please contact.