The time has come... You understand your marketing needs, carved out a budget, and have buy-in from the necessary stakeholders at your company. You can finally invest in the services of a marketing or PR agency. But if you have never worked with an agency before, or your agency relationship skills have gotten a bit rusty, it might be time to fine-tune your understanding of an agency partnership.
In order to create the most successful agency experience possible, there are a few things you should know before you hire one. From building trust to taking risks, these tips and insights can help prepare you to get the most out of your agency and elevate your marketing to new heights.
This is not an attack on in-house teams, but it is a bit of hard marketing truth. While in-house teams are required to be industry experts, internal communications pros, and sometimes even sales reps for their companies, agency marketers spend every minute of the day working on marketing strategies for dozens of accounts. They’re seeing more data, encountering more approaches to marketing, and staying on top of new trends, while an in-house team focuses on the same account each day.
A hyper-focused marketing mindset means agencies are more agile in their learning and can be better at specific channels than in-house teams. In-house teams better understand the intricacies of their business and industry though, meaning they are poised to make better business-specific choices than an agency might be equipped to.
Creativity is the lifeblood of an agency. Taking risks, being playful, and testing new strategies is what gets agency pros get out of bed in the morning and excited to go to work. It’s their job to push boundaries and develop unique solutions to drive results.
A company that’s “game” to try new things is an agency’s favorite partner. This willingness creates an incredible agency/business relationship that can achieve those goals internal teams were not able to. After all, if you don’t want to try an agency’s suggestions, why hire one in the first place?
An agency’s process is a big part of what defines them. Without a set process for account management, an agency is little more than smart people doing smart things, and success will vary based on the account manager the agency assigns to it. You can liken this to having a destination in mind but no roadmap to help you get there. It is a big waste of time, which unfortunately means a waste of money for your business.
Marketing agencies that have taken the time to develop this roadmap expect you to follow it, and you should. These processes help define strategies for information gathering, campaign execution, and measurement, steps necessary to ensure the success of your marketing efforts. Following the roadmap facilitates a smooth journey, from starting point to destination.
When agencies are competing for a new client, a number of them will decide to withdraw from consideration if they learn that the client is making a decision based primarily on price. While price is an important factor to consider when choosing an agency, a business that uses price as the main factor in making their decision will never be a good long-term fit for a savvy agency because they are not able to understand the difference between excellent and mediocre results.
The difference between experts and amateurs often comes at a cost. But if the agency you are interviewing charges rates far lower than competitors, there is a reason, and that reason is often that they not any good.
Requests for proposals have been around for decades, so in a profession with trends and best practices that change almost daily, it is surprising that this outdated practice is still used to hire agencies.
Agency selection is often based on factors well outside of the RFP pitch. An agency with an existing relationship with the issuer, for example, can easily stack the deck against an agency that is more qualified to handle the account, ultimately wasting the time of the other agencies that participated and the business itself.
The number of variables involved in responding to an RFP further make this an unwinnable game. Agencies often are not given access to the company’s previous marketing concepts or campaign data, sometimes because this has never been measured before. Building new tactics and strategies off of an ambiguous starting point does not set up the agency for success.
Finally, some businesses might put out an RFP for a service they want or think they need, though a closer look could tell an experienced marketer that the specific service is not the solution to the company’s problem. For example, a company may issue an RFP for media relations work, when to an agency, it might be clear that digital advertising, not media coverage, could better help the business reach their marketing goals.
Unfortunately, there are many marketing scams your business could fall victim to. Legitimate, knowledgeable agencies often find themselves competing with unrealistic and sometimes flat-out outrageous claims made by these scammers. From the promise of thousands of new followers on social media to a guarantee of a No. 1 Google search ranking, these scams and the people that perpetrate them are everywhere, ready to dupe you and your business out of cash. Be wary of promises for guaranteed media coverage, a certain number of leads per month, or exponential sales growth. While you certainly can and SHOULD expect results, promises for too-good-to-be-true results are often signs of someone trying to take your money and run.
Similar to number three on this list, it is important to remember that a destination without a map is nearly impossible to reach.
Knowing your company’s objectives, understanding the need for assets, growing an existing business, and steps for acquiring new business are all important parts of your business plan. Knowing these pieces and how they play into the overall goals for your company empowers your agency partner to recommend and execute marketing strategies tailored to your specific needs.
Depending on your company’s needs, billing may happen by the hour, project, or retainer (a set, agreed-upon amount each month). Pricing is mostly influenced by how much time it will take to meet your goals and objectives. If you are consistently asking your agency to do things that are outside of scope, it is like asking them to work for free. Make sure you have a good understanding of what is covered in your agreement to prevent wasting hours nor making requests of the agency that are outside of scope. Remember, if either side is not making a profit, there are two options: Either renegotiate the contract or end the relationship.
While this might seem like a fine line to walk, finding an agency with a wide swath of account sizes is fairly easy to do when you are looking at reputable, knowledgeable teams. If you are the agency’s biggest client, there is a possibility you may actually be too big of an account for them to handle, and the agency may falter in staffing and expertise for a business of that size.
If you are their smallest, you may be assigned a junior team and might not get the individualized attention your business needs. Additionally, working with an agency too big for your business could mean that fees will eat into any profit the agency makes for you.
Referrals and thought leadership are two of the most important ways agencies get work. By referring your agency to a friend or colleague, you are helping them save time and resources they might otherwise spend on searching for new business. Remember, the less time your agency spends on hunting for business, the more time they have for your account.
Positive online reviews, sharing out the agency’s social or blog content, and speaking their praises is greatly appreciated and allows an agency to work even harder to service your brand.
The more you know about your business, your agency, and best practices in the client-agency relationship, the more successful you will be in reaching your company’s goals. If you are ready to maximize your marketing impact by teaming up with an agency partner, email us for a complimentary consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.