Common Struggles With Your Marketing Agency (and How to Solve Them)
Just with any relationship or partnership, you’re likely to encounter bumps along the road. According to a survey of mental health professionals conducted by YourTango.com, “communication problems” are the most common factor for divorce, followed by an inability to resolve conflict. Your relationship with your marketing agency is no different. If you want to continue a long-term, productive relationship with your agency, you’ll need to be able to solve problems when they arrive. Here are a few common roadblocks you may encounter with an agency and how to address them to get back on track.
As in all relationships, communication is vital. The most common communication problem we’ve encountered is a disconnect between the agency and clients as to what communication should look like. Some clients want weekly check-ins from their agency on the progress of their campaigns, while others want to set-and-forget once a month. The method of communication will vary from client to client, too. Some prefer to talk on the phone so they can brainstorm ideas, while others prefer everything to be written down in an email.
When these preferences don’t align, problems arise. Emails go unanswered, voicemails sit idle in inboxes, and managers roll their eyes every time a new message appears. If you don’t communicate well, you’ll stop communicating altogether.
How to Fix It
In your initial onboarding meetings with a new agency or when starting a new campaign, the establishment of a communications system should be one of your top priorities. Outline with your agency how often you’d like to communicate, when you’d like to be updated and how, and the specific mediums of communication you prefer to use. As you work together, don’t hesitate to speak up if there’s some aspect of your communications with your agency that isn’t working for you.
Lack of Transparency
Transparency goes hand in hand with communication. In order to effectively create high-quality marketing materials, you need to establish a free exchange of information. This starts with you, the client. Err on the side of telling your agency more than you think they need to know — share feedback from your sales team, any details on a new product you’re launching, the most common questions asked of your service department, and anything else you can think of. The more information your agency has, the more informed decisions they can make.
Transparency also applies to feedback. If you want to refer to “customers,” not “clients,” let your agency know. If you want your blogs to contain a brief synopsis at the beginning, explain that from square one. Strive to be clear, detailed, and constructive with your feedback so that your agency can work seamlessly alongside you to deliver the content you need.
How to Fix It
Again, it’s easier to prevent problems than to solve them. The more you can establish a system of transparent feedback and clear information sharing before you get started, the better. In our experience, sharing feedback is most effective both live — in meetings, on the phone or during video calls — and in the moment.
Make sure everything is written down. At the end of any meeting, someone should write up what was discussed and send it over so that you have a record of the feedback that you offered.
Marketing agencies are staffed by experienced marketers, but that doesn’t mean they’ll know anything about the industry your company works in. If you’re operating in a very technical industry with specific needs, you’ll need the people working on your account to learn about the intimacies of your business. An agency that lacks experience addressing your challenges can lead to an ineffective strategy, missed goals, and alienated clients who think you can’t relate to their problems.
How to Fix It
Additional and consistent communication. When it comes to learning about your audience, your company, and your industry, your agency’s best resource is you. Give them access to as much information as you can. Put them in touch with your sales and service teams so they can learn what the common pain points for your customers are. Any time you think of some insight you’ve remembered about your customers, let them know!
Often, a failure to meet goals comes from a failure to align. Your agency can’t just start writing blogs about relevant topics without knowing the background information behind the campaign — specifically, they need to know about the organizational goals behind your marketing.
Be specific. Don’t simply tell your agency that you’d like to increase revenues — tell them that you’re trying to attract a new group of customers, increase retention, or get more engagement on your social sites. In return, your agency will be able to offer insights into what intermediate goals you should be considering. If your agency isn’t creating content in alignment with your organizational goals, you’ll be disappointed with the results.
How to Fix It
More communication and better benchmarking. When the organizational annual goals are set and every time they are refined, ensure that your agency is aware of them and can work alongside you to create marketing objectives and KPIs that lead to the organizational goals, are quantifiable, time-bound, and clearly communicated.
You can’t generate effective reports without a goal in mind — you need to know what information you’re looking for before you start. Just as with communication and feedback in general, every client will want something different from their reporting. Some only want to be notified if the campaign hits a significant speed bump or its goals are met, while other clients take an interest in the granular metrics of every channel on a day-to-day basis.
How to Fix It
Many agencies will offer you a standardized reporting package — a specific set of metrics and dashboards that they offer to every client on every campaign. If that dashboard doesn’t align with the metrics you want to see, speak up!
Work with your agency to create a custom dashboard that reports the information you want to see, in the format you want to see it, and nothing more. If you need a different set of metrics for your salespeople or your c-suite, talk to your agency about creating specific reports for them. Communicate the reporting that matters to you and keep your agency abreast of any changes in your needs.
If there’s one theme to the most common struggles between agencies and their clients, it’s that clear communication is of paramount importance. If there’s anything about your relationship with your agency that isn’t satisfactory to you, the problems will continue to compound as long as you don’t speak up. By laying out clearly enumerated plans, you can preclude the problems in communication that you might encounter and set yourself up for success.
If you’d like to explore how we partner with our clients in greater detail, we’d love to start a conversation. Get in touch today.