Avoid Another Breakup! Four Keys to Successful Agency Relationships
Rhoan Morgan is a Forbes Agency Council Influencer and Thought Leader. This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
Recently, I was part of a CMO panel, and I heard one leader say that it seems like marketers are becoming project managers now—and that’s not a good thing. Marketers who also do project management are losing their ability to drive strategy and achieve big goals.
Today’s marketers, at every level, are tasked with more complex demands and higher expectations than ever. With so much on their plates—and yet the same number of hours in the day—marketers are finding it challenging to carve out sufficient time for important strategic aspects of their work.
There are a few obvious, practical responses to this challenge. Hire more people, invest in training and upskilling, reduce the workload (which will, in turn, reduce the results you seek), or find a trusted partner to support you. One of the fastest paths to return is outsourcing. The challenge is getting it right. With the right partner, marketing teams can regain control of the strategy and focus on large-scale initiatives, maximizing growth, enhancing the customer experience and directly impacting revenues.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of joining forces with a trusted agency partner and how you can maximize the value of that relationship.
1. Clarity of Purpose
To stay on top in an ever-evolving industry, we need to keep on top of trends and constantly learn new skills. Even the most innovative teams may struggle to keep up and scramble to fill gaps. What do you do when that happens?
You’ll want to consider your organization’s goals and the people, processes and technologies you require to achieve them. Then think about where an agency partner could expand your team’s ability to do their best possible work. Usually, these needs fall into three areas:
- Knowledge: Your organization’s priorities are unique. Maybe you’re considering a new platform, or perhaps you’re underutilizing your existing martech stack. An agency partner can bring laser-focused expertise that will solve some of your biggest challenges. They’ve also been around the block, so they will know how to apply best practices to your goals.
- Capacity: If you have a team of 50 doing their full-time jobs, they likely can’t handle more. Whether launching a new project, advancing your technologies or brushing up on education, an agency can be an extension of your team and enable its success.
- Time: An agency can speed up the creation and execution of campaign assets. For example, you’ll need more hands on deck if you want to execute 100 email campaigns in multiple languages and locations. Also, agencies can help evaluate how you work: They can help you analyze and refine your business practices to improve internal efficiencies.
2. Success Metrics
An agency-client relationship offers many benefits, but how can you measure them?
It depends on what you agree to upfront for measurement and reporting. Some companies have success metrics baked into a vendor evaluation; others go on a gut feeling.
Regardless, you will want to start with conversations about your specific goals, and what success looks like, so the agency knows what they are working toward and can best support your goals. The more willing you are to share your goals, the context of your work and even the inner workings of nitty-gritty things like your budget processes, the better an agency can ensure your superhero status.
3. Meaningful Partnership
Wherever your priorities lie, the most significant value comes from a long-term partnership. When you establish a relationship with an agency and they serve as a trusted advisor or partner to you, they become deeply involved in helping you create and fulfill your goals.
If you genuinely bring that agency into your day-to-day operations and fully involve them, their value to you will multiply. It’s a big commitment, but don’t shy away from it. An agency can serve as an extension of your team.
And just like trust, communication goes both ways. Establish regular opportunities to check in, but also have conversations that aren’t on the calendar. Be available; if something comes up, address it right away. (Like many agencies, we’re close to becoming mind readers, but we’re not there yet.)
4. Mutual Trust and Inspiration
Trust may work in both directions, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. You need to build trust early in the partnership and renew it often.
Some stakeholders may have never worked with an agency. Or perhaps they’ve had unsatisfying experiences in the past. It’s understandable. Trust begins during the initial stages of selecting your agency partner. In addition to ensuring they’re a good technical fit, make sure they are a good cultural fit. Once you’ve made the leap, allow for a proper discovery phase to ensure that you and your agency partner agree on how you will team up and how you will meet goals. This fosters a stronger understanding of your business.
While this may seem less important than getting an initiative off the ground, don’t skip discovery. You will learn essential information during this time. Be patient and be as transparent as possible. Agencies need all those details to be the best possible partner for you. Mutual trust is crucial for success.
This mindset has proven its value at our agency through multiple engagements with long-time clients and ongoing referrals from former clients.
The Beginning of a Beautiful Partnership
With increasing demands on our time and capabilities, an agency partner can free you and your team to focus on areas of strength, provide an opportunity to enhance your knowledge, explore new disciplines and acquire new skill sets.
And when you seek an agency partner, consider your organization’s needs, strengths and gaps. Look for an agency that offers the qualities you desire and the people you want to work with. This is your best bet for building a long-term relationship that both empowers your marketing team and inspires the world.