Marketing agencies can transform the performance of your brand, your business and yourself. They will be the bane and boon of your life. Thus to get the most out of them, start by researching, and briefing marketing agencies. In so doing be clear about your objectives and needs, go out of your way to understand your agency, and also work at the relationship.
Be frank about your marketing and brand objectives and challenges
When briefing marketing 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 brand objectives. Consider, for example, whether you wish to attract more customers, increase sales per customer. Consider also whether you wish to raise awareness, change perceptions, or …. It often helps to reflect on your current situation, weaknesses or problems that you wish to address, and then redefine these as future goals.
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.
Choosing marketing agencies
Assessing agencies starts with your brief. So include your selection criteria in the brief. This helps agencies marshall the best resources to meet your needs and demonstrate they can meet your needs (or choose not to). Then seek multiple and diverse responses to your brief, and make sure you meet the team. When you do meet the team, ask who does the work, and be wary of agencies who just use front-men for the pitch and who you risk never seeing again. Finally give clear, comprehensive and timely feedback to all. To do otherwise is disrespectful and lessens your good name.
Manage marketing strategy and execution
Developing creative and truly integrated marketing campaigns requires strong agency management. Campaigns fail for either strategic or executional reasons and a poor brief is often seen as a reason to reinvent your strategy. Great communications emanate from a clear and compelling brand strategy underpinned by robust insights. All agencies say they have planners to do this – but brand strategy is a specialist skill that most agencies have little of. And it is not something to be considered lightly or dealt with in a ‘black-box’. Seek specialist strategic 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 agency 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 also 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, say proper ‘thank-yous’. Building good relationships will benefit you in many ways, for example in terms of profile and career advancement!
Briefing marketing agencies
It all starts with a clear brief. So use our handy one-page marketing brief for briefing marketing agencies, or your in-house team. Then make yourself available to answer questions verbally rather than hiding away behind an email address. The latter does nothing for clear communications or building trust.