The role of the advertising agency has continued to evolve. While ‘creative shops’ are still around, many have adapted to more substantial organizations with teams capable of website development, data science and analytics, user experience, market research, traditional and digital media strategy, marketing automation, and more. An effective agency should be able to back up your budget and execution strategies with data collection, analyzation, and insights.
f you’re considering a new relationship with an agency or considering a change, below are some thoughts to consider of how you can make the most out of your partnership with your agency.
Understand the Agency’s Capabilities
Many times, new clients seek agencies for a specific need, such as a new logo or website. Or, maybe they feel they just need to increase the amount of website traffic. When this is the case, clients will assess the capabilities for just that specific need they have. However, it’s a good idea to assess all the agency’s capabilities. You may find that you need to consider a more comprehensive set of services to accomplish your initial goal. Or, you may add on services to complement your efforts. If using an RFP to evaluate agencies, be sure to ask for the capabilities relevant to your RFP, but also ask agencies to list their full capabilities. This may save time in the future if you have selected an agency with a wide scope of services as your needs change.
You don’t know what you don’t know. The best way to have a clear understanding of the opportunities available, is to understand the full breadth of capabilities your current or potential agencies have to offer.
Be Open to New Ideas
One of those most surprising and confusing statements heard by an agency when reviewing new creative or marketing strategies from clients is the reluctant:
“That’s just not the way we have done things before.”
You’re doing yourself and your agency a great disservice living in the mindset of just doing what was done before. If you are in the position of working with a new agency because you feel your current creative is falling flat, or because KPIs are not being met, it may be time to move from your comfort zone and accept new ideas.
Industry trends may drive the marketing channels chosen. Budgets may dictate the availability to try new mediums such as TV or marketing automation. When kicking-off a new project or onboarding your new agency, be open with what you are willing and unwilling to try as budget spend. Share favorited or better yet, hated creative from your competitors, and then be ready for a hand off. Allow your agency to come up with new strategies and creative concepts. Get ready to step outside your comfort zone and remember that frequent reviews, analyses, and insights will drive the need to make minor adjustments or change course altogether.
Communicate Revenue Goals and Results
While many businesses may feel they need to keep their sales or revenue confidential, having transparency allows your agency to go beyond being a creative partner and allows a strategic partnership to form. Furthermore, those who are being held responsible for meeting said goals, should not be left in the dark. By sharing this vital information, your agency knows what they are accountable for. Creative work needs to be engaging. The right channels need to be considered. And there needs to be a return on investment.
Just as important of knowing what the goals are, your agency should know when they have been met or missed. They can participate in the conversation of why and what can be done for future improvement.
Knowing that a business/agency relationship is dependent on tangible KPIs instead of subjective opinions on creative or how you ‘think’ things are going allows benchmarking and tracking results to determine the need for changes in budget, or maybe a change in agency.
Share Future Plans
Just as important as revenue or sales goals, businesses need to share short- and long-term goals for growth and development. Are you planning on introducing your product or service into a new market? Do you plan on adding products or services to your existing offering? Knowing plans to make changes to your organization six months from now, or maybe five years from now, allows your agency to have a proactive role in your success.
A great example for this would be to think about your website. Knowing that you may add a new product or location allows plans to be built out for those additions in advance, instead of trying to react after the fact.
Treat Your Agency as an Insider
Whether you seek to work with a niche agency to your industry, or choose an agency based on their broad capabilities and services, it is important that they have a vested interest in learning your business.
Your agency team will want to participate in internal meetings and attend events to learn about your organization and understand the customer experience. When done right, this exercise will go beyond onboarding. Members of your agency team should contribute to senior staff meetings, board meetings, franchisee meetings, and other events that include shareholders.
Furthermore, many times your agency may also be a great source for referrals. Need a new marketing director? Why not ask your agency if they know any capable candidates! Maybe you are looking for a new customer relationship management tool (CRM) or resource for packaging and labeling. Leverage your relationship with your agency and connections they have with their clients to make recommendations, or at the very least, make an introduction to potential vendors.
There are many opportunities outside of the day-to-day work routine to get additional value from your agency.
Invite members of your agency to attend corporate or industry conferences. Many times, the educational sessions are not only a benefit to you, but also an extended learning opportunity for your agency to get insights about your industry and see what others are doing. Attending sessions together allows different perspectives and takeaways to be heard and discussed.
It’s a great time for members of your agency to come support you in a different capacity by attending fundraisers, groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, etc. Furthermore, by inviting friends and family members to these events or sharing them on social media. If you select an agency that care about more than the bottom line, they will be more than happy to attend and promote major events hosted by your organization.
Did you have a record-breaking year for revenue? Or maybe you were voted “The Best Of” in a local poll. Your agency should be proud to share your accolades through social media or in attendance at a party or corporate event. By sharing your success and allowing your agency to take part in ‘patting everyone on the back’ it will motivate the team to keep the momentum going! Most times, agencies gauge their success through your success.
Like any outside relationships your organization has, there is an investment on both sides for onboarding and maintaining your relationship. By assessing and choosing your agency based on how to get them most from it, can allow for that partnership to last for many years. Should you ever feel like you’re not getting what you need out of your current agency for your marketing and advertising needs, it might be a good time to schedule time to learn more about what they have to offer. Furthermore, if you are assessing hiring a new agency, get a good sense of everything your agency can offer prior to making your decision.