Ask any successful couple, sports team, management partnership or psychologist what their secret to a prosperous relationship is and they’ll probably all tell you the same thing: Communication is key. A successful relationship between a business and an agency is much the same – you need to be clearly on the same page to build a robust framework and clear intentions.
For businesses, it can be a very daunting experience navigating best practises when engaging with and managing an outsourced marketing agency. But moving past the trepidation can be worth it – if done correctly, working with external agencies can offer unprecedented benefits.
While it’s important to recognise that there is no definitive method or practise in managing an external agency, our experience working with hundreds of businesses across dozens of industries has taught us some absolute non-negotiables.
Get comfortable with the idea of the unknown
Before we start with what to do, let’s take a look at a big do not – which is going in with a set idea of how everything will work, what you want and what the agency will be able or willing to provide.
When in pursuit of specific goals with an external agency responsibilities, communication, and objectives can unintentionally fall into a spiral or haphazardness. And this can drastically damage the relationship and the outcomes achieved.
Becoming aligned with your outsourced marketing agency is more than just sharing the same goal. Sure – every agency has its own method of operation, but there are universal values that can be key ingredients to success.
There are always ingrained expectations from all parties involved when onboarding, and certain behaviours and practices can be difficult to break. Aligning those expectations should be approached with meticulousness and intent. If you are transitioning from another agency – cut clean and do it with dignity. Transitionary periods are uncomfortable for everyone.
5 tips for managing an outsourced agency
1. Be clear
It’s important to remember that outsourced agencies value clarity. Coming into the relationship, a crucial step is developing and establishing a set of clear and deliverable objectives. For a marketing agency, they want to know what’s truly important to your business, and their capacity to achieve this. Ask yourself key questions:
- Are we wanting the marketing agency to determine what is best for us holistically?
- Are we wanting this agency for their technical skills and ability to execute our strategies?
2. Be realistic
Being realistic involves identifying constraints. Discussing these develops the agency’s critical ability, and how as a partnership these constraints can be minimised and overcome. With the expertise of the agency, these constraints should not come as a blindside, yet simply feed the strategy development and tactic use.
3. Develop key documents
In this same onboarding process, developing key documents that will further align the agency with how your business operates will streamline processes and develop a true sense of unanimity. A style guide that fine-tunes the messages and a thorough communications document are beyond valuable to the agency and make the management process significantly easier.
4. Nominate key contacts
A common mistake business make is not identifying which team member/s are going to be the drivers of decisions and communications. Establishing a member or team who is knowledgeable, resourceful and can make decisions is extremely important for both the sake of efficiency and effectiveness. Engaging with an outsourced agency requires a lot of back and forth. Having a designated communicator and decision-maker can streamline actions, optimise outcomes and reduce any confusion.
(Yes – there will be times where other relevant stakeholders are suitable, if not necessary to be a part of the discussion. But to really achieve a level of consistency, highlighting these responsibilities and communicating them to the agency will make the management process much easier.)
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. This point is somewhat of a combination of the above four. Communication should be clear, concise and realistic. From every brief, you should derive what is trying to be achieved, what are the constraints in achieving this, and how the time will be spent. Clarification is always a big yes.
A trustful partnership is a successful partnership
When you can relinquish control, trust your agency and work in harmony, you’ve hit the sweet spot. Recognising that you’re not always right – and you don’t need to be – can be hard, but is necessary. After all, expertise from the agency is one of your key expectations, amongst others. Developing a foundation of trust, valuable feedback and strong dialogue can be built simply with active listening.
You should not have an eagle’s eye on the agency, as the agency should not put an eagle on you. Instead of looking at each other when measuring success, both you and the agency should be looking at a common goal and determining to what extent that is being achieved. An ecosystem of trust and mutual responsibility will dampen the need of monitoring, and further align you with your agency.
It is without a doubt that partnering with an outsourced marketing agency can be of profound value. With a level of preparedness, highlighting key responsibilities and developing good communication, you’ll be on the way to a fruitful relationship.
If you’re curious about what outsourced marketing services could offer your business, let’s have a chat. We like to think we’re pretty good at it – and a lot of our clients