5 ways to get the best out of your marketing agency

Five ways to get the best out of your marketing agency

With a new financial year looming for many of us, and budgets being drawn up for marketing spend, a recent report from McKinsey&Company said that now is a good time to assess your relationship with your supporting marketing agency (or agencies) to ensure you get the results that you want and your company gets a good return on its investment.

For many businesses, an agency represents the greatest conduit for contact with the wider world. Sure, your in-house marketers do a great job, but sometimes they can get caught up in the wheels of your company’s internal culture.

Agencies are different. Because they are not your staff, and work with multiple companies, often across multiple disciplines, they can pick up on and absorb the very latest communication trends. Their degree of objectivity means they should be able to tell you what the world at large wants to hear from your company, and what the most effective channels will be for you to reach those audiences.

But even if you have an agency, it’s important that you have the right relationship with them. Here are five points that should help improve your relationship with your agency.

Do you and your agency know which communication channels will bring the greatest success in line with your business goals?

Sophisticated marketing automation tools mean that, more than ever, campaigns can be aligned to qualified sales lead generation. It’s no longer a matter of pushing a press release out there and hoping that a prospective client will give you a call. The right relationship with the right agency should allow you to be alerted to all emerging communication channels and help you both identify and engage with your target audience.

This may include helping you create personas for the type of people you want to reach and testing different digital and social media platforms to identify those most likely to provide the best returns. Such exercises helped one company realise it should rebalance its spend from a 70 percent concentration in TV and traditional channels to a 50 percent concentration in digital. Persona creation and channel testing can take time, but you’ll end up with a much more accurate and focused stakeholder engagement model and hopefully an appreciative sales department.

Have a clear working relationship with defined roles and responsibilities 

It’s important to clarify roles and responsibilities, both from your side and from your agency, so that there is a mutual understanding of what you expect from them and how they should coordinate with your in-house marketing team. The report from McKinsey&Company states that the definition of roles should extend to an assessment of which capabilities are best left to the agency and which could be better developed internally. However, a good agency will also welcome the chance to provide counsel and support to your strategy. The input and the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes from a trusted third party can deliver a valuable perspective on your plans and help your agency fully understand your goals.

Understand what success looks like

What metrics are you going to choose to measure the effectiveness of your agency’s work? A traditional method of measuring a successful media relations campaign used to be equivalent advertising value (EAV) or opportunities to see, where agencies would provide stats on the circulation figures for a piece of distributed content, probably an article or a press release. With the onset of the digital age, this translated into visits to the website. But neither identified who was engaging with your content. Through the development of marketing automation models, which enable much more highly targeted campaigns, we can now cross that barrier. We can take a prospective customer from awareness of your company to consideration of your products to ultimately a purchasing decision. And we can identify where they are on the buyer journey so that we can provide them with the most appropriate content at every stage.

If an increase in marketing qualified sales leads by a certain number or percent and in a certain timeframe is your ultimate aim, make that your agency’s KPI. Provided such KPIs are realistic, a good agency should welcome the chance to prove what it can achieve. 

Make sure you’re getting the feedback you need from your agency 

You’re busy. You’ve hired an agency to work for you for an agreed fee and you trust them to get on with it. You don’t need to know every minute detail of what’s happening, but you do need to know that things are happening and how your budget is being spent.

Transparency on costs is important. Many agencies charge by incremental time periods, such as per hour or half-hour, and they should have an efficient time detail process that enables you to see where your spend is being focused. In fact, if your agency is concerned about the level of budget spend, it should flag that issue up with you at the first opportunity. Your agency should also push you for a regular catch up to discuss activity progress, its relation to the plan and any other issues that might occur, including resource allocation and budgets. 

Aim to be a great client

That master-servant relationship thing? It’s so dated. You’ve spent good money hiring an agency with the aim of helping you. So let them do it. You should look on your agency folk as an extension of your marketing team, so trust them and trust in them as you would your own.

Make sure there is an understanding in your own business about the process of approval and commissioning of agency work so that different parts of the business are not creating duplication. Aside from the regular planning meetings, you should also have an ongoing dialogue with your agency to generate greater proactivity and the continual refinement of tactics.

It’s also important to remember that anyone, whether in-house or at an agency, requires the space to achieve their best work. Of course, quick turn arounds are essential and a good agency will always do its best to provide the highest quality work whatever the deadline, but high calibre work often requires time. You must therefore make sure that you have sufficient internal resources to maximise the relationship with your agency, to partner with them in strategy formation, creative development, tactical delivery and managing and reporting on spend and outcomes.

An agency with a thorough understanding of your company and your campaign, a sound knowledge of the most effective platforms and channels to select in this rapidly changing environment and a focus on sales lead generation can be a valuable partner for business growth and an important differentiator from your competitors.

While all of these points are important to consider (and now is as good a time as any) chemistry is a key component in any successful agency relationship. It’s more than just actions and reporting, if you trust them and they are delivering results you are happy with – then take the time to recognise that as well.

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