Marketing agencies will be the bane and boon of your life. With careful management, they can transform the performance of your brand, your business and yourself.
To get the most out of agencies be clear about your objectives and needs, understand your agency and work at the relationship.
Be clear about your marketing and communication objectives
When briefing agencies be as open as you can. The more an agency understands your needs and issues the more they should be able to help you. Start by preparing a written marketing agency brief; the process of doing so will help you clarify issues and opportunities and engage and gain agreement and support from your colleagues. A common problem is to write fuzzy objectives. So pay attention to both your marketing and communication objectives i.e. positioning and promotion. It often helps to reflect on the problem that communication must solve.
Understand the agency landscape
The agency landscape is constantly changing. At one end of the spectrum, there are the agency groups owned by the likes of WPP and Omnicom. At the other, there is an ever-changing mix of independent and up and coming agencies. Keep abreast of the changes.
Monitor the people moves especially if it is happening in one of your agencies. Check out the odd new agency that catches your eye. The nature of the profession means that there are good people to be found in many places and those that are most vigilant stand to benefit the most.
In terms of cost, understand how remuneration works. The more intellectual or consulting agencies work on a mainly time cost basis. Database marketing and campaign communication agencies tend to be time and/or cost-plus. Marketing implementation services are more price list driven, for example, pay-per-click plus fixed fee. Overall, expect to pay more for those with London offices and less in the suburbs or rural areas. Expect to pay more for a heavy duty management team, those with an overseas management structure and those that belong to a quoted group. Fewer layers and complexity means less cost.
Manage marketing strategy and execution
Developing creative and truly integrated marketing campaigns requires strong agency management. Campaigns can fail for either strategic or executional reasons and a poor brief is often seen as a reason to reinvent your strategy. Great communications are underpinned by robust insights and a clear and compelling brand positioning. All agencies say they do this – but brand or marketing communication strategy is a specialist skill and most do not. Seek specialist help when needed and if you are working across multiple media, use your management skills to ensure collaborative working, set the tone and define and manage demarcation lines.
Build good relationships
Having seen the world from both sides of the fence, if you are paying an agency to help you, never be in 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 – and if the work is deserving, give the occasional thank-you. Good relationships can return benefits in many ways, for example in terms of profile and career advancement!
Briefing marketing agencies
For help briefing marketing agencies or your in-house team read our handy one-page marketing agency brief.