Marketing agencies all say same things. They promise to make your company stand out from your competitors, attract new customers, grow your business and be more successful. Some try to be clever about it, boosting that they do things differently, that they’re a bit more edgy, disruptive or just wittier than the rest.
But at the end of the day, we’re all pretty much offering the same services whatever way we dress them up.
That presents prospective clients with a bit of a dilemma. Should you go for the agency with the really cool website, or the one that’s targeting you with a remarketing campaign that appears to be stalking you when you’re on social media? The answer is, of course, to devise a robust selection process and then, once you’ve gone with the agency that ticks the most boxes, give the relationship the best chance of success with an equally robust on-boarding process.
Here’s how we would like to be treated by our clients.
Selecting a marketing agency – cutting through the cr*p
Put it out to tender. Let’s be grown up about the selection process and force those creative marketing types to focus on whether they want your business or not. Without wanting to bad mouth anyone, there are plenty of B2B companies in the outsourcing sectors that are happy to take your money for not a lot of effort. If they’re not prepared to go through a tender process, how much effort will they put into your marketing?
Request for proposal – select 5-10 marketing agencies and put out a request for proposal (RFP) providing them with details of your company, what your current marketing activities are, what your objectives are, and what you want. Any agency that wants to work in a collaborative way with your company will welcome the opportunity to structure their response and tailor their services to your business. Agencies that use a one-size-fits-all approach to how they work with clients, will struggle to differentiate themselves.
Shortlist agencies based on what you want – identify what you really want from a marketing agency. The ability to deliver results and price will obviously be factors but there may be other qualities that you also want. Are they good communicators? Do the understand your sector? Are they interested in a collaborative partnership? Are they actively looking for ways to add more value, or is their approach more transactional?
Invite agencies to meet the team – any agency that wants to work with you will prepared to have a face-to-face. This is an opportunity to see whether there’s a cultural fit, and for all parties to meet each other and get an idea if they can work together. Get feedback from your team – it may be your decision to make, but they’re going to work with the agency.
Hopefully by now you should have a clear idea of who’s the best marketing agency for your company. If not, perhaps it’s time to go with the one with the cool website…
On-boarding a marketing agency
A robust on-boarding process is the key to a successful partnership. If you fail to invest the time at this stage, you could get off on the wrong foot and never really get the value out of the relationship and services you hoped for.
Ideally, your chosen marketing agency should have processes in place for on-boarding new clients. Expect them to look something like this:
Fact finding – the tender process would have given the agency plenty of background and company information, now they will need to get the detail. Brand guidelines, style guides, tone of voice and glossaries of terminology are all important. Your agency will also want to review your marketing efforts and understand how successful they’ve been. Even if you want a complete departure from anything that’s come before, they need to see where you’re coming from and what has worked (or hasn’t) with your target customers.
Customer avatars – to be successful marketing agencies need to get to know your customers really well. To do this they’ll need to develop customer avatars that identify their pain points, drivers, how they like to be communicated with, conversion killers etc. You’ll need to provide the agency with as much information as possible.
Content audit – the agency will also need to know what assets are already available and how they can be integrated into new marketing campaigns and activities. Assets will include everything from the content on your company website, to whitepapers and reports, case studies and customer testimonials.
Skills audit – as well as knowing what assets are available the agency also needs to know what skills your in-house team has. At Grow+ our aim is to support your marketing team, allowing them to play to their strengths and help them get skills they need to be more successful. Therefore, we want to know exactly what everyone does, what they like doing, and want to do better.
Agree KPIs – your agency may have some ideas about the most important metrics for reporting purposes, but it’s also important for you to agree KPIs that all parties understand. There’s no point in receiving reports that don’t mean anything to you and your business, so identify the performance indicators that are meaningful and are aligned with your business objectives.
Project management – use a kick off meeting as an opportunity to understand each other and how you both work. Where possible the agency should be keen to align their processes with yours, so that they’re not adding to your workload – a danger of outsourcing is that you don’t enjoy the cost savings and benefits because your team are spending too much time managing the agency.
Establish lines of communication – agency / client relationships fail when there’s a breakdown in communication so it’s important to create the right environment for open communication. Project management and collaboration tools like Slack and Asana can be useful to promote good communication between your team and the agency.
Building and maintaining a relationship of any kind takes trust and communication. We think it all starts with a solid foundation so everyone knows exactly what they’ve signed up to. With a comprehensive selection and on-boarding process, all parties should be totally invested in the partnership.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the subjects covered above.