Marketing agencies will be the bane and boon of your life. Though with careful management they’ll transform the performance of your brand, your business and even yourself.
To get the most out of agencies be clear about your objectives and needs. Also understand your agency and work at the relationship.
Great marketing work starts with a great marketing briefing
When briefing marketing agencies be as open as you can. The more an agency understands your needs and issues, the more they will also help you. Thus before engaging an agency prepare a written brief. The process of doing so will firstly, help you clarify issues and opportunities. It will also help you better engage and gain agreement and support from your colleagues.
Understand the agency world
The agency landscape is constantly changing. At one end of the spectrum there are the massive consulting and accounting firms, such as PwC, and agency groups owned by the likes of WPP, Omnicom and Publicis. At the other, there is an ever-changing mix of independent and up and coming agencies.
The nature of the agency world also means that there are good people in many places. Thus those that are most vigilant, stand to benefit the most. So read the press to monitor the people moves. Also check out the odd new agency that catches your eye.
In terms of costs, understand how remuneration works. More intellectual-driven agencies or consulting firms work on a mainly time cost basis. Some consulting firms on a task basis, whereby you also pay for the ‘brand’ reassurance. Database marketing and campaign communication agencies tend to charge on time and/or a cost-plus basis. Marketing implementation services are more price list driven, for example, pay-per-click plus fixed fee. Overall, also expect to pay more for those with London offices, and less in the suburbs or rural areas. In addition, expect to pay more for a heavy-duty management team, those with an overseas head office, and those that belong to a quoted group. The fewer the layers, and less the complexity, means lower costs.
Briefing and selecting marketing agencies
With a written brief the process of selecting who is best to help you is much easier. In so doing include your selection criteria in the brief to help agencies understand what’s important. Then ask a handful of diverse agencies to pitch as each will provide different insights and ideas. And throughout the pitching process make yourself available to answer questions, and ideally meet you. Then with a scorecard, that matches your brief, assessing who is best is easier. Finally make sure you meet the team who’ll do the work (not just the front person) to fully understand what’s on offer, as well as check the chemistry is right.
Manage marketing strategy and implementation
Developing effective and truly integrated marketing campaigns requires a clear and compelling brand strategy underpinned by robust insights. Also great creativity and strong marketing management. While all should be evident from the marketing brief, a poor brief is often seen as a reason to reinvent your strategy.
As campaigns typically fail for either strategic or executional reasons, reinventing strategy by accident is risky. Further, while all agencies say they do the strategy bit, strategy is a specialist skill, and most do not. So seek specialist help if you are unsure about your strategy and want to make sure your communication is built on a firm foundation. And if working across multiple media, or with multiple agencies, then use your management skills to set the tone, maximise collaboration, and define and manage any demarcation lines.
Build good relationships
Having experienced the agency world from both sides of the fence, if you are paying an agency to help you, never doubt that they are on your side. But remember that agency people are human; they’ll work harder for you if they like you. So build good relationships; let your agency know that you are on their side. Also if the work is deserving, give proper thank-yous. Maintaining good relationships offers many knock-on benefits : for example, in terms of feel good, profile, and even help to progress up the ladder :-)!
Top tips for briefing marketing agencies
Follow these links to read 15 top tips for briefing marketing agencies or market research agencies.