Have you ever bristled at the thought of bringing in an agency for help? Or maybe the agency was hired without your input and you were issued orders to work with them (ouch, that stings). Any of these sentiments feel familiar?
“I’m already doing everything I can and this agency is just going to ask about all the things I’m not doing but know I should.”
“I can do this myself, I just need more time/budget/hires. I don’t need outside help.”
“No one else gets what it’s like in my role.”
“What if my company sees the good work this agency does and decides they no longer need me?”
“These outside experts will ‘find me out’ for sure.”
I’m not here to help you work through your feelings (that’s what chats over coffee are for), but I can help you get the most out of your agency partnership—whether it was your decision to hire them or not.
Your agency partner has the power to make you look good — like, really good. Manage that relationship well and they’ll help you identify root problems, fix them, and ultimately reach your goals (and your company’s goals, by default). This is only going to help you in your current position and maybe even be the thing that boosts you to the next promotion or new role. Think of it as TGI Friday’s flair—any success they bring, you get to pin it to your company-issued employee vest.
Here’s how to do it.
Be open with your…
Data and metrics
Did you run a customer feedback survey last year? Are you sitting on a report from your most recent campaign? Got a whole database worth of data to download and analyze? Share that with your agency.
The more your agency has access to past and present data, the better they’re equipped to help you.
The more your agency has access to past and present data, the better they’re equipped to help you. An avalanche of data all at once isn’t always helpful, either, so if you have a lot, tell them what you have and let them pick and choose what they need.
The point is: Don’t hold your data close to you like you would a poker hand.
Every position comes with challenges, and the existence of those challenges is not a reflection on you. And if you don’t trust me, listen to Captain Picard.
Maybe you have senior leadership or a board that is notoriously difficult to get approval from. Share that. Your agency can help you formulate the pitch in a way you’re more likely to get that “yes.”
Other times you’re up against pressures that feel overwhelming and you’re not sure which way is up. That’s ok—it happens to everyone. Sometimes the best thing you can do is acknowledge that you don’t know what the best thing to do is. Be open about that and your agency will guide you through it.
Or maybe you don’t have room in the budget for an initiative even though you see the value in it. More on that in a second.
The point is: Tell us about what you’re struggling with because we might be able to help you through it.
How many times have you copied and pasted last year’s budget into this year’s, made a couple of minor adjustments, and called it a day? Budget lines that you may see and think, “Well of course we have to do this. It’s part of our core activities.” An outside perspective may see it and say, “This isn’t going to help you reach your goals.”
Goals and strategies change, and so should the tactics you’re spending your budget on.
When you’re close to it, it’s easy to view work you’ve typically done as a must-have. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Goals and strategies change, and so should the tactics you’re spending your budget on.
Or maybe everything in your budget truly is a must-have (hard to believe, but it happens). Then it’s time to be resourceful. Are there inefficiencies? Anything you can move in-house? Software licenses you no longer need?
There’s never a wrong time to re-evaluate if your budget is aligned with your goals and strategy. It doesn’t hurt to talk to your account executive about getting help with allocating your budget—strategy masterminds with a fresh perspective may be just what you need.
“But you’ll just make recommendations that benefit you!” In a way, yes, because as cheesy as it is, your success is our success—we’re not interested in just a short-term sale.
The point is: Share your budget so that we can help you make the most of it by providing recommendations that are truly tailored to you and your situation.
Be prepared with your…
“You’re the experts, shouldn’t you be able to tell me what we should be aiming for?”
Nope. Wish we could, but only you can tell us where you want to go and what is important to you as a company. Only then can we tell you what is possible and what it will take to get there. We can ask questions like, “Have you ever considered this?” or “We had some ideas for potential products. Want to hear ’em?” but ultimately the decision is yours.
So, consider your goals ahead of time. Or maybe you don’t have hard numbers yet, so ask yourself, what does success feel like? For example, maybe you want a worry-free process when handing off leads from marketing to sales. (Note: We’ll want to ask questions like, “What does ‘worry-free’ mean to you?” but this is a great place to start.)
The point is: You don’t have to come to your agency with fully-set-in-stone goals. But knowing generally where you want to go will only strengthen (and quicken) the process.
Consider the talent you have in-house and what you need to complement that. The key here is that you don’t just have to divide strictly by skill set. If you have a graphic designer on staff but no one to do video, you don’t necessarily need to land on “all design will be done in-house while all video will be contracted out.”
Instead, you can divide by initiative. For example, consider two foundational sides of marketing:
1. Short-term sales activation
2. Long-term brand-building and awareness
While quite a bit of emphasis is put on short-term sales activation (who doesn’t love a big win?), it is brand building that sets your company up for success over the long term and also boosts your short-term sales. So while your nimble in-house team handles all things short-term sales activation, your agency partner could run your long-term brand-building initiative.
The point is: Work can be divided between your in-house team and agency partner in many different ways, so be creative with how you approach it.
Be your own expert
Customers, Brand, and Operations
I’ve shared before that CID was a great agency partner for me when I was a marketing director in a former life. And while I relied on them for many things like their expert advice, I knew my customers and end users best.
It’s the same for you! You have likely spent years getting inside the hearts and minds of your customers to the point where you know them like a good friend. You’ve developed instincts about what they might love or hate, and how they experience your brand.
Your detailed internal knowledge is powerful when combined with an outside perspective.
Similarly, you know your systems, processes, and business model better than anyone on the outside because you’ve spent years working within that environment. This detailed internal knowledge is powerful when combined with an outside perspective.
Everything you know and have experienced is important to impart to your agency partner. As a lover of research, I’m the first to acknowledge that it only goes so far — even primary research. Marketing truly is a balancing act of research-driven insights and experience-driven instinct. Your agency will quickly learn what makes your customers unique and be even better equipped to make recommendations and adjustments to the strategy, but it starts with you. It’s your responsibility to share the insight you have with your agency.
The point is: Your agency partner will be quick learners and bring valuable fresh ideas, but leverage your own intimate knowledge of your customers, brand, and operations, too.
What is the one thing you must do to get the most out of your agency partnership?
Reach out and start the conversation. We at CID would love to hear about your world—your goals and challenges, wins and failures—to see if we’d be a good fit. You can take the first step by contacting us here.