Naturally, this is preceded by debates on in-house v agency, and there are times when working with an agency simply doesn’t make sense.
Since the cost of an agency is generally higher than an in-house marketing resource, businesses need to get the most out of the agency to justify the expense.
This is probably the #1 reason why client-agency relationships fail.
With the excitement of a new marketing partnership, it’s easy to miss this simple step. As a client, you need to be clear on what success looks like for you. What are your expectations month-on-month, in the next 6 months and 12 months?
If you don’t have channel expertise, it may be hard to zero-in on a specific metric. In that case, you need to work with your agency to get advice and agree on benchmarks before being bogged down by minor campaign details.
What is the most important metric or milestone you intend to measure success on? It might be a KPI relating to sales or leads. It might be a certain number of website traffic or engagement. It’s also possible that your marketing campaign is about empowerment and supporting your team with creative assets or expertise as needed.
If you haven’t had a clear discussion with your agency around expectations, there is a good chance you and your agency are thinking of success in different ways or your timelines are misaligned.
You also need to be prepared to see volatile metrics month-on-month and understand that marketing metrics don’t always show linear growth.
If expectations are not clear and in writing, it’s likely that someone is going to be frustrated and unhappy down the line.
If you’re too close to a problem, it’s common to get myopic about the issue and struggle to find a solution.
When you’re an in-house marketer it’s easy to forget just how close you are to your brand and how much assumed knowledge you hold. You also have access to real data on actual sales or revenue outcomes (or at least you should).
Agencies can step in here and provide insight and a new perspective through the eyes of your perfect customer. However, to get the best outcome, you need to maintain free-flowing communication. Agencies do their best work when they have access to different client-side contacts and real-time data and feedback on the impact of their campaigns on sales and revenue.
Getting information about new products, in-house marketing initiatives, challenges and plans will ensure that the initiatives don’t compete with current campaigns and give your agency the opportunity to advise and plan for better marketing results.
A client-agency relationship should be based on mutual respect among equals that trust the other’s knowledge and judgement.
The opposite of this is a master-slave relationship or one that is based on fear or driven by reactive behaviour (on either side). In times of conflict, it’s best to address the issue head-on with a meaningful discussion to find the best resolution.
If you appoint an agency with the expectation that you will dictate exactly what they do, how they solve problems, then realistically, you’ll never see their best work. That kind of work is best left to an execution agency rather than a strategic marketing partner, like Rocket.
Likewise, if your agency believes they have all the answers and don’t take the time to discuss strategies and ensure you’re aligned with their approach, then you should be concerned about how successful their work will be.
When you hire an agency, as an in-house marketer or business owner, you need to be open to feedback. Needless to say, mutual respect is important. But just as important is the ability of both sides to be willing to have direct conversations and provide both positive and constructive feedback.
We’ve seen it all over the years. Clients who never provide positive feedback out of some fear that if an agency thinks they are doing a great job, they’ll give less to the campaign. We’ve also seen clients afraid to give negative feedback for fear of offending someone. This can end in inappropriate work being approved, an unhappy client and ultimately a broken relationship.
An agency should always be appointed to deliver an outcome, and we strongly believe that clients should give clear feedback on how things are going from their perspective. Just as strongly, we believe that an agency has to let a client know when they believe the client itself is working against the goals of the campaign. Sometimes a senior member of staff will be making suggestions that no one wants to stand up against, sometimes a day-to-contact is focussing on the wrong things and introducing inefficiencies which will lead to poor outcomes. Sometimes a client needs to know their existing assets (website, branding, messaging) are simply not good enough.
Sometimes these conversations are tough. But they are rarely as tough as anyone expects them to be. And almost always they make the future simpler and more effective for everyone. The alternative is typically growing frustrations on both sides as well as poorer than expected outcomes.
If you’ve already hired an agency, consider how you’d rate your relationship with them. Are you making the most of your partnership?
If you’re looking to hire an agency, find out if their client relationships clearly set expectations, what their feedback and escalation process is, how often you’ll communicate with their digital marketing experts and lastly, if they are asking you questions relating to your business and not just a single campaign.
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