Brands large and small around the globe are working with agencies to further their digital marketing efforts. Many companies have been working with agencies for years while others have traditionally kept marketing in-house and are just now dipping their toe in the water.
No matter what stage they’re in, every brand has questions about how to best work with a digital marketing agency and make the most of the relationship. To help answer those burning questions, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden participated in a panel along with Mitch Joel and Jessika Phillips at Social Media Marketing World that tackled some of the questions that everyone has, but are afraid to discuss.
Below you’ll find answers to 5 of the top questions that many people have about what to do and what to avoid to develop a successful client and agency relationship.
Q1: Why should a brand pursue or have an interest in an agency relationship?
#1 – Agencies Specialize in Marketing
While many companies may already have a scalable and successful marketing function internally, a competitive market will often call for bringing in outside expertise. The accumulative knowledge that exists within an agency because of their ability to experiment can be much more difficult for a brand to pull off alone.
#2 – It Doesn’t Make Sense Financially to Build a Team
Many companies have some budget to build a marketing team but not necessarily the right team. When you partner with an integrated marketing agency, you’re gaining access to expertise across multiple areas that would be very costly to build internally.
#3 – To Bring in an Additional Perspective
Working with an agency means that they can also help strategize and push ideas through that you may not be able to do on your own. Their outside perspective and experience in similar scenarios with other clients can add an additional layer of credibility and knowledge to help convince the rest of your team that you need to take a particular course of action.
#4 – The Relationships Agencies Have with Influencers
Influencer marketing has become a staple of many digital marketing programs. However, the task of building relationships with influencers can be a lengthy and detailed process. Many agencies (like TopRank Marketing) have already been building relationships with B2B and B2C influencers for years and can utilize those existing relationships to incorporate influencers into your digital strategy.
#5 – Agencies Are Often Ahead of the Curve
Because agency teams live and breathe marketing, they’re constantly consuming information about the latest trends and best practices to help clients remain competitive in the marketplace. Brands can use that ongoing education to their advantage by staying ahead of the curve against competitors.
Q2: What are some examples of what makes a good relationship between a client and their agency?
#1 – Understanding What Each Team Brings to the Table
One of the most important parts of a good relationship is having a great vibe and respect for what each team does. This should be a dynamic that is data-informed and constantly evolving for maximum value. When both teams work well together and are very capable at creating value it allows the agency to shine for the brand.
#2 – Becoming an Extension of the Brand
Integration and stellar communication between the brand and agency is an integral part of a good client/agency relationship. This integration and constant contact makes it much easier to ensure that the agency can align with the brand message.
#3 – Challenging the Status Quo
One of the most important but sometimes uncomfortable conversations that clients and agencies NEED to have are ones that push everyone outside of their comfort zone to create a truly great digital marketing strategy. It’s important to anticipate that if you’re going to work with a really great agency, there are times you’ll be challenged. Sometimes things gong very smooth and other times there may be opposing views. The question that both teams to answer at the end of the day is: Will this help our brand meet our goals?
Q3: What are some key things that cause issues between clients and agencies?
#1 – Brands & Agencies Not Boxing in Their Weight Class
Finding an agency match that is structured to support your business can be tricky. Often times you’ll find that smaller companies want to work with an agency that is built to service larger clients and the relationship quickly becomes strained because of the involvement that the client may want to have. Similarly, some agencies are not setup to service large-scale clients and will struggle to execute and meet expectations. It’s important that both the client and the agency are structured in a way that compliments the other business.
#2 – Key Decision Makers Missing From the Equation
When you’re going through the process of hiring an agency, it’s important that all key decision makers are participating in process where appropriate. That way, everyone is defining and analyzing the same goals from the beginning. If you don’t, it can cause serious issues with expectations later down the road.
#3 – When Clients Are ONLY Looking to Value Shop
There is nothing wrong with a company looking to find an agency to work with that is within their budget. However, when companies are strictly focusing on value as it relates to low cost, that’s where things can get disjointed. Anytime an agency compromises on price it lowers the value of their offering and has the potential to cause issues. Both companies should strive instead to make sure that the agency they’ve chosen is a good fit and that they see value in what the agency can provide, at a price that is reasonable for both parties.
#4 – Contracts Are Not Clearly Laid Out
Leaving things open to too much interpretation has the potential for disaster. The verbiage that an agency may use to describe the services offered may not completely align with what the customer thinks is included. That is why it’s important to cover exactly what will be completed (and sometimes what is not included) to make sure that everyone understands what role they play in the relationship.
#5 – Clients Believing Their Efforts Stop Completely Once An Agency is Hired
Just because an agency has been hired, that doesn’t mean that the client no longer has any responsibility for the marketing initiatives. The insight that the agency gathers from the client on an ongoing basis is ESSENTIAL for accelerating the voice of the brand and cannot be replaced with independent research.
#6 – If the Relationship Isn’t Growing, It’s Dying
If you’ve had the exact same program with an agency for years and years, it’s time to take a look at the relationship. Your agency should be adapting and evolving your digital marketing strategy on an ongoing basis and informing you of new trends and platforms that will help you meet business objectives. If those conversations aren’t had, both companies are at risk of losing the relationship.
Q4: What have you found to be the best formula for client and agency communications?
In short, it depends on the client, the nature of the agreement and how new the program is. At varying stages of the relationship you will need to meet either more or less frequently. The teams should decide together what cadence works best to meet everyone’s needs and objectives. At the very minimum, clients and agencies should meet at least once a month.
Q5: What is the one thing that could improve the client and agency relationship?
#1 – Finding the Right Fit
Clarity and transparency up-front can add a lot of value. It’s important to make sure that capabilities as well as culture are a fit for both teams. Then, both teams have to deliver on what was promised.
#2 – Having the Right Team
When an agency has a solid team that can develop niche expertise and continue educating themselves constantly, there is a lot of value that can be provided to clients. There is no replacement for having a great team that can not only meet but exceed the expectations set.
#3 – Empathy From Both Teams
At the end of the day, we’re all people. Clients and agencies just happen to be two groups of people that are partnering together toward a common goal. Part of fostering a good client and agency relationship includes each team having empathy for the other.
Start Getting More out of Your Digital Marketing Agency
Expertise, clarity, relationships and a realistic outlook all play a huge part in creating a successful client and agency relationship. There will always be unknowns and time that needs to taken to find your groove in working together, but by following the advice above, you can ensure that there is alignment between both parties to help meet business objectives more effectively.
What questions do you have about partnering with a digital marketing agency?