One of the main questions you need to consider when working with a marketing agency is what kind of relationship you need and what type of work they are going to do for your company.
Do you already have an established marketing strategy and just need help with a campaign or two? Alternatively, are you starting at ground zero and require a long-term strategic and consultative relationship?
Only you will be able to make that call after you have looked at your marketing tree, but there are some unique elements of each relationship that you should keep in mind, depending on which direction you go.
First, if you are looking for an agency for short-term help on a few campaigns, you need to look for agency partners that are:
In this environment, you are not looking for someone who can build you a 5-year strategy. You need someone who can come in and in a relatively short period understand your customers and industry on a high level and apply their expertise to a particular mission—knowing that you are the marketing leader and they are part of a strategy that is already in place. In this scenario, you will be the expert, and they may need to understand one aspect of your overall strategy in depth.
Often in cases like this, you are looking to fill a need that your current marketing team or agency doesn't have. So you want a team that is not afraid to step out and try new things.
Because in this case you most likely have a strategy already laid out and just need help executing, you need a team that can come in and quickly be an extension of your thinking. Your agency should bring new ideas to the table, but you will want to work with a team that brings new ideas that fit into your strategy and do not lead you wildly off track down a winding trail of ideas that don’t take you where you want to go.
As an arm of your existing strategy, you should be looking for an agency that brings something to the table that your internal team or current marketing partner does not. You will want to find an agency that has some form of specialization that can drive your strategy forward. For example, if you are great at attracting people to your website, but not at generating many leads from it, you may want to find an agency that specializes in branding and positioning. Alternatively, they may be specialists in an industry, like museums or industrial products or they may be experts in marketing to a particular kind of customer or demographic.
Finally, in this scenario, you want to make sure your new agency can play well with others. With an established marketing program in place, you will likely have egos and different kinds of personalities at play and bringing in an outside group can throw off your dynamics. So you want to make sure that you bring in a partner that knows their stuff but doesn't come off as a know-it-all. Also in this scenario, you want to make sure that any technology they are bringing to the table talks to the systems you already have in place, or at the minimum, they have a plan to connect key data points in some way.
On the other hand, If you are looking for an agency that can provide value to you in a long-term capacity, there are five essential characteristics you should look for:
One of the most important things to look for when you are trying to find a long-term partner is to identify an agency that views your brand and products as their own. A little obsessive behavior here is good. Ideally, they should be thinking about your brand as much as you do.
A long-term agency partner needs to be strategic. They need to see the big picture and help you lay out a vision of where your company can go. At the same time, they need to help you build a marketing foundation that could sustain you if the relationship ended. Building this foundation includes making sure that marketing tactics directly contribute to meeting business goals as well as making sure you have the right technology and marketing channels in place.
An excellent long-term agency needs to be able to dig into your brand, your data and your industry to find new insights that can help you grow your business.
Whether you are a marketing professional or business owner who has marketing as one of your many responsibilities, finding an agency that wants to not only do marketing but also sees themselves as an educational resource for you is also vitally important. Because of their work across different industries, audiences and business models, agencies are in a unique position to accelerate your team’s marketing knowledge.
Finally, long-term agency partners need to do more than provide you with a general strategy. They need to be equipped to put tactics in place, maintain them, track results and make ongoing recommendations based on those results.
Starting the process of finding an agency to work with can present many unknowns. But it should also be a super exciting time for your business as long as you start it off on the right foot and ask the appropriate questions that can help you find the partner that best fits your needs.
Next time we will look at goal setting and what you need to do to align your business goals with your marketing strategy and the role that plays in working with an agency.