As much as you may like to, as a marketing leader it’s simply not possible to do everything.
Goes without saying, right?
One of the most important decisions a CMO—or marketing leader—can make is selecting an agency that fits well with the business. The capabilities and dynamics of your marketing team, your in-house agency, and current agency all create a unique situation that needs close attention and care.
Easier said than done.
To put it in perspective, the average marketing agency-client relationship in 1987 lasted 7.1 years. Today? The average agency relationship frays faster than ever, with a tenure of less than three years. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on CMOs to choose partners wisely.
In this fourth installment of our LoSasso CMO series, we’re going to outline some things to consider when choosing an agency partner and growing your relationship with an agency—and how you can ensure success for all teams involved.
Clues you might need to assess your agency partnership
Every marketer should always be considering this: Could I get better marketing results if I used a DIFFERENT marketing partner/s? Here are a few hints that it might be time to shift internal responsibilities to an outside partner, or replace an agency you’ve outgrown.
Your staff is overwhelmed with the current marketing workload
When your internal team is overwhelmed with marketing tasks, it can spell trouble for both your lead generation and departmental morale. Instead of attempting to conquer all of the work yourself, consider what you could outsource to an agency. Here are just a few of the typical “time sucks” that a savvy digital agency can handle:
• Social media posting
• Content strategy and blog-writing
• Website redesigns
• PPC and SEO campaigns and strategies
In these capacities, marketing agencies are often used to compliment a core group of in-house marketers, and close alignment is crucial to produce work that is on-brand and results-oriented. But when done right, it’s often a wiser and more efficient investment to outsource these responsibilities, rather than managing an inflated team headcount.
Sales are stagnant, or the sales department is complaining about lead quality
When sales are stagnant—or worse, if your sales team is complaining about too few qualified leads—a marketing agency can help you figure out where you’re falling short, and what you can do to turn things around. Any agency worth its salt will have an experienced team that will work together to help you develop a goal and a strategy with a step-by-step plan to get there, delivering the results of their (and your) efforts regularly along the way.
You don’t know what is and is not working
Similar to stagnating sales, sometimes it’s not always easy to tell where you can boost your efforts. Would running a PPC campaign for your product or service generate more leads? Would it help to launch of series of thought leadership articles to establish your brand’s credibility and trust? Would PR efforts help your business’s exposure and reputation?
The beauty of marketing is there are many paths you can take to get to your goal. Agencies can help you parse them out.
You don’t know where your money is going with your current agency
If you currently employ a marketing agency—but don’t know where your marketing dollars are going or aren’t seeing significant results—it’s time to consider shopping around. Take some time to assess exactly where your money is going and how savvy and experienced the people spending your marketing dollars are. Can they explain their strategy in detail? Can they show measured improvement toward your company’s goals?
If you don’t have an intimate understanding of exactly how your current agency’s efforts are benefiting your business from a bottom-line ROI standpoint, it’s time to start looking around.
You want help leveraging the latest technology
Do you know the latest Facebook opportunities? Or how Google’s latest update will impact your business? It’s okay if your answer is “no,” because, frankly, you have bigger things to worry about!
A marketing agency, though, can and should be up-to-date on the latest developments and capabilities of various channels. It’s their day-to day world, and they live it.
How do you choose a partner?
As cliché as it might sound, choosing the right agency is a lot like choosing the right life partner. While having the capability to get the job done right is important, just as important is the culture and personality fit of the agency and your business. Think of it this way: could you stand to get stuck in an airport for 8 hours with the person (or people) in charge of your account at the agency you’re considering? Would that be a pleasant experience? Or a nightmare?
Along with that, here are a few other things to know about your own business when you’re chatting with potential partners.
From increasing sales to driving brand awareness and strengthening your company’s reputation, marketing goals can vary widely. Determining exactly what you want to achieve will help you hone in on the right agency.
Knowing your budget—and sharing this information with your agency partners—will make the process of choosing an agency smoother. You’ll get the best results from your agency when you’re very transparent with them about budget up front. Your agency wants to know not so they can max out your marketing dollars, but so they can make the most effective recommendations based on your business goals. It’s critical that you at least give a range, so you can assess their ability to make your precious dollars go the furthest.
Goes without saying, but reputation holds a good amount of weight in the marketing industry. If the agency has a reputation for blowing deadlines, overcharging or not driving effective results, steer clear.
They’ve worked for a competitor or similar companies
This is usually a good sign. It means they understand companies similar to yours, and the space you operate in.
Hire the culture, not just the agency
Much like learning about and connecting with a brand, assessing the values of an agency can provide necessary insight to determine if the working relationship will be compatible. While getting to know your potential agency partners, ask: What drives them? What inspires them? What makes them different? Why do they exist?
Bonus: non-traditional questions to ask marketing agencies
When it comes to vetting and choosing partners, be sure to cover all of the traditional questions about previous clients, how success is measured, etc. In addition, here are a couple of non-traditional questions you can ask to determine if your firms are compatible.
- What surprises you most about our organization? If you could, what would you change? (“Nothing” is a red flag)
- Have you ever wanted to fire a client? Why? What are some key things that caused the breakdown in that relationship? Knowing that, what would you do differently?
Remember, when it comes to choosing an agency, trust and transparency are the most important pieces of the puzzle. Once you have trust with your agency partners—and know that 8-hour airport delay will be far better with them at your side—everything else will fall into place.