Engaging an agency, or in better words a marketing partner, for your marketing needs could make or break your business. Here are 4 must dos if you want a successful engagement with your marketing partner.
- Think through your marketing goals
- The best marketing goals are always complementary to business goals and sales goals. Depending on the focus areas, these goals may be more aligned to business objectives like brand building, perception improvement…etc., or aligned to sales goals like generating leads, nurturing leads, increasing pipeline, accelerating sales cycles, or a fine blend of both. Having absolute visibility on your marketing goals is super important.
- The more the details on how to achieve this goal, the better would be the engagements and approach. For example, let us consider engaging an agency for execution of a defined marketing goal. And for this, let us hypothetically assume the following objective - “Achieve a 25% growth in the APAC pipeline through new logo acquisitions” – this could be a good goal to start with. However, further in-depth descriptions of the goal increases the chance to achieve better results – so, let us get more descriptive >> “Achieve a 25% growth in the APAC new logos pipeline through events, targeted email campaigns and social media brand building”.
- Define your scope of engagement
- The next step is to clearly chalk out the steps involved in execution. Again, the more details we have in the marketing roadmap and timeline, the better it is. For instance, in our example, we may choose to participate in 3 events, run 2 half yearly campaigns and manage a year-long social media brand building engagement. When expanded further, this translates to tasks related to content creation, program management, campaign execution, reporting…etc.
- It is crucial to explore in-house capabilities and their bandwidth to help execute the plan for maximum synergy and cost efficiencies. For instance, the in-house team may be capable of running campaigns but may not be ready to churn out customized content at the speed which the campaigns demand.
- When these aspects of timelines, tasks, capabilities and availability are looked at in conjunction, it opens up an insightful view of the focus areas, in-house strengths and gaps that need to be filled.
- Describing the working style of the team is also essential for assessing agency fitment when time is right.
- Budget is another animal altogether. But necessary expenditures will have to be made for effective outcomes. If not, the only options we have would then be restricted to be to upskilling the team, cutting down the tasks on a lean model and/or increasing team size.
- Identify and evaluate agencies that can address your expectations - based on similar experiences and decide
- If we have done the first two steps effectively, this step should be easy. Now we will know what kind of complementary support we would want to effectively execute our plans. Based on the requirements, a targeted search can be done to identify the first list of agencies. It is also a wise approach to ask your industry contacts for referrals and look through the top agencies listed in articles. However, their fitment with your working style will have to be explored and their work will have to be assessed in line with your specific expectations.
- It doesn’t hurt to ask for their reference work. But given that there are many known and unknown players in the market with no clear visibility on their effectiveness, organizations evaluate the agencies through a pilot project before engaging them for their long-term programs. Based on my experience, this pilot engagement has delivered good results in the long term – both in terms of cost effectiveness and quality. It is recommended that you pilot with at least 3 agencies to steer of decision bias. Based on the deliverables, it gets much easier to shortlist the preferred agency. But the game doesn’t end there.
- Set expectations for the short listed agency
- Its very common to stop at finalizing on the number of assets agencies should create or the kind of tasks that perform. But I would recommend a result based approach here.
- To ensure effective results, it is always best to co-write the contract / SLA details in line with the expectations. Word of caution: Not all agencies may be OK with this approach because of the metrics included or at times, may charge an extra for the quality being delivered. But if marketing has to be driven by results than efforts, then this is the way to go.
This 4 step approach has helped all the startups and small enterprises that I’ve supported not only to identify their marketing partner but also refine their marketing strategy in line with their business needs.
Feel free to share what worked best in your engagements.