Many agencies will tell you that marketing is an art, and it’s true that we pride ourselves on creating innovative messaging concepts and aesthetically pleasing, sales-ready websites. However, one powerful way that marketing imitates art is that both can be highly collaborative.
In his classic sociological study “Art Worlds,” Howard S. Becker argues that works of art aren’t solely the product of individual artists but rather the result of cooperative efforts between numerous participants.
From the butler who dutifully woke the English novelist Anthony Trollope at 5 a.m. each day so he could write, to the talented sound engineers who mixed The Beatles’ most innovative albums, great work, Becker claims, always comes from collaboration.
What’s true of great novels and records is also true of a great marketing campaign.
At its best, marketing is a collaborative effort between agency and client – not to mention between creative minds, client services teams and a multitude of other contributors. Especially when it comes to fast-paced relationships, like our Accelerated Engagements, a spirit of cooperation and teamwork is key to generating impactful results.
Here are five simple yet effective ways to ensure that your agency engagement is a masterpiece of collaboration.
1) Put The Time In
Too often, businesses treat their marketing agency like a wind-up toy – just set the team up with a vision of where you want to go, this logic states, and it’ll automatically rush off in whatever direction you’ve pointed it.
While it’s true that you should expect your agency to handle the heavy lifting, the reality is that successful marketing engagements also take consistent and conscious effort on behalf of your team. Be prepared to set up a regular meeting schedule, and to stick to it. Touching base at least once a week is ideal – for our accelerators, we typically meet every day.
Of course, not everyone needs to be involved in every meeting. Your agency should provide a dedicated point of contact for your engagement, and will likely request one from your organization as well. In general though, attendance at these meetings will vary. During the content development stages, for instance, you may need to bring in subject matter experts (SMEs) as needed.
2) Set Clear Expectations
“Putting the time in” doesn’t just apply to the span of your engagement – a little preparation beforehand will also go a long way. Achieving your marketing goals is a much smoother process when you have a clear sense of where you want to go. So before you kick things off, be sure to carefully define your business goals and processes to facilitate a seamless handoff.
You may be thinking, “Hey! I don’t know what my goals should be – that’s what I’m paying you for.” That’s true, but at the very least, try to develop a clear idea of what success looks like for your business. From there, your agency can work with you to develop measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that help you track your progress in achieving them.
3) Streamline Your Review Process
One of the most common holdups we experience in our engagements is a prolonged review process. If it’s taking weeks to approve a strategy or content piece that your agency produced in a matter of days, you may end up experiencing diminishing returns on the final product.
Of course there’s a time and place for everything, and there’s nothing more embarrassing than finding easily avoidable mistakes in your final product. Assuming your agency follows a rigorous editing process, however, the problems usually arise from “too many cooks” or too many rounds of revision rather than too few.
Keep in mind that great collaborators like Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus didn’t necessarily intervene in every single note of their soloist’s performances. Similarly, trust your team to know when it’s taken a project as far as it should go – and don’t let perfectionism hold you back from the leads you could be generating now.
4) Treasure Transparency
Things happen fast in the agency world, which makes healthy communication key to success. Unless you keep your agency up-to-date on important internal developments, industry news or customer feedback, you risk receiving marketing solutions that aren’t geared toward your most pressing needs.
While confidentiality issues may limit some businesses’ abilities to be fully transparent, it’s important not to hold anything back. Be sure to equip your partner with as much information about your business as possible from the beginning of your engagement.
That means not only sharing documentation, such as customer surveys and business plans, but also any relevant internal sentiments or business history. For instance, if you’ve previously had a bad experience with an agency, you should be clear about what didn’t work so your partner can mitigate these issues from the get-go.
5) Be Flexible
Any partnership, whether personal or professional, requires adaptability. When it comes to your marketing effort, this flexibility doesn’t mean compromising on your goals – in fact, it means carefully monitoring your strategy and tactics and being responsive to changing needs.
While developing a clearly defined scope of work is critical for keeping your engagement on track, don’t be afraid to pivot if your agency senses that your marketing budget could be better spent on a different approach. Though you don’t want to get bogged down in analysis paralysis, it’s much better to regroup and refine your plan of attack than to end up with outcomes that don’t actually help you achieve your goals.
One of the main advantages of working with an agency that embraces Agile methodologies is that you don’t have to sacrifice speed for results. Thanks to regular huddles, extensive onboarding and plenty of room for adjustment, your businesses can gain the benefits of a proactive approach – and avoid getting locked into rigid processes and suboptimal quality.
Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!