Almost every business will establish a relationship with a marketing agency at some point. Small businesses often lack in-house marketing resources and may hire an agency to serve as their marketing department. Most larger companies have an internal team that leads marketing strategy and planning but commonly turn to an outside agency for website development, graphic design, SEO/SEM consulting, paid media management, etc.
If you’re looking for outside marketing assistance for the first time or feel that it’s best to find a new agency, take some time to think about the type of consulting relationship that’s best for your business.
The Two Types of Marketing Agencies
Our whitepaper titled, Paintbrush Agency vs. Marketing Partner, explains that there are two categories of marketing agencies.
Paintbrush agencies tend to focus on specific marketing disciplines or projects. You set the strategy, and they do what you ask and direct them to do.
Paintbrush agencies are best matched with businesses that have a strong, experienced internal marketing team. The internal team can develop a marketing strategy and carry out the plan without outside consultation. They typically just need agency assistance with specific disciplines, most commonly graphic design and website development.
Partner agencies, as the name implies, look for long-term relationships, working with you to develop marketing strategies and execute marketing initiatives and projects. The question to ask yourself is, “Which type is most appropriate for my business?”
Choose correctly, and you can expect to have a long, productive agency-client partnership. Make the wrong decision or fail to hold up your end of the bargain, and you’re likely to fall short of your goals and have a dysfunctional relationship with your agency. You may consider terminating the relationship, or the agency may fire you as a client.
Working with a Partner Agency
PIC is a partnership agency. We invest heavily in each customer’s success, seeing ourselves as part of the client’s team with a focus on achieving growth objectives at a pace set by the client. That’s the foundation of our Walk With You Marketing™ approach. If you feel a partnership agency is right for your business, here are three things to consider when evaluating agencies:
- Shared Vision—You and your partner agency should agree on where your business can and should go, and how to get there.
- Confidence—You should be confident in the agency’s abilities. Meet with them. Ask questions. Review their portfolio. Speak with references. Check online reviews.
- Similar Cultures—The prospects of a long, productive partnership are high if you and your agency see eye-to-eye on business practices and have compatible core values.
How to Successfully Work with a Marketing Agency
After you’ve entered an agency relationship, both sides will have to work at keeping it strong. What are the keys to long-term success?
- Open, honest communication is critical to maintaining any relationship, and an agency-client relationship is no exception. State your goals and expectations up front and continue to reinforce them. Be an active participant in the process.
Assuming you checked the “Shared Vision” box during the courting process, you and the agency team should recognize quickly when a marketing initiative is misguided or outside your core mission, and you should be like-minded on the solution.
- Commit to a plan. Establish goals and KPIs that will guide you and confirm your level of success. Share your scorecard metrics with your agency. They’ll need them to make informed decisions.
Don’t be too quick to deviate from the plan when you hit a bump in the road. It can be tempting to shift strategies to chase “the next big idea.” At the same time, keep an open mind, believe in your KPIs, and be willing to pivot—or even do a 180—when you and your agency feel it’s appropriate to do so.
- Recognize that SEO and content marketing are long-term plays, and one will not be successful without the other. Trust your agency’s expertise, establish a content calendar, and dedicate the resources required—yours and/or the agency’s—to develop informative, evergreen, and search engine-optimized content on a consistent basis.
- Share your ideas openly with your agency and be willing to accept pushback. It’s likely that your agency’s team will never know as much about your business as you do. They should value your opinions and guidance and recognize that you are the ultimate decisionmaker. At the same time, you hired the agency because they are marketing experts, so be open to their feedback and recommendations, even if they may initially counter your thoughts.
True partner agencies function as part of your team. Omit your agency from strategic marketing conversations or treat them like an afterthought, and they might look to end the relationship. If you find that you’re questioning your agency’s actions frequently, it may be signaling a problem at the agency or within your company, or you may need to regroup on the mission.
Which Agency Will Bring You Marketing Success
At paintbrush agencies, success is judged on a project-by-project basis. In a marketing partnership, you and your partner agency will establish goals and strategies jointly. You’ll celebrate wins together and share the responsibility when a campaign fails to meet expectations.
Partnerships require a higher level of commitment by both parties. When you’re taking the long view for your business, the effort is worth it. Both parties agree to be open and honest, take action items seriously, adhere to agreed-upon deadlines, attend meetings prepared and on time, bring their “A” game, and strive for continuous improvement.
When both parties abide by these rules of engagement, the probability of a long, successful partnership is high, and neither of you will hear the infamous phrase, “You’re fired!”