Ready to hire an outsourced marketing agency? Great! Think you’ll never have to mention the word “marketing” again? Not so fast…
While it’s true that your outsourced marketing agency will take a huge chunk of work off your plate, you still want to sit at the table and be a part of the dinner conversation.
This article discusses tips for managing your marketing agency, key questions to ask your agency, and some advice for transitioning from one agency to another.
1. Define your internal stakeholders and management team
2. Set your expectations for updates, reporting, and input levels
3. Create clearly defined goals- and check in often on those goals
4. Trust your marketing agency's expertise
5. Expect a bit of give and take
6. Share your industry finds
7. Tap different team members to review agency work and collaborate
8. Communicate often, openly, and honestly
One of the many benefits of hiring an outsourced marketing firm is that their team of experts can align seamlessly with your team of experts. But success happens when there are clearly defined roles and expectations.
Choose one team member to be the agency’s primary point of contact. This will ensure you have someone on your team who is always up to speed with the agency’s progress and goals.
Similarly, ensure you have a primary point of contact on the agency side as well. Who can you call or email if you have questions?
But be careful not to just dump everything into one person's lap. Setting regular update calls debriefs, or status presentations with the larger marketing team - including the C-Suite - will ensure everyone is on the same page. This brings us to our next point.
PRO TIP: Marketing firms have a notoriously high turnover rate. That can be enormously detrimental to your success with an agency. If you spend months getting a new contact onboarded and they leave for another opportunity, now you’re back to square one.
Ask your agency what their employee happiness and turnover levels are. And check out their listing on Glassdoor for an insider look at employee satisfaction.
As an outsourced marketing client, you can be as low or high-maintenance as you want to be.
You can ask for monthly traffic meetings or quarterly reports. You can request your own dashboard login and do your own performance analysis, or you can wait for scheduled updates.
You can personally review every word of content marketing that’s written on your behalf, and you can ask for revisions.
But whatever you want to do, it’s best to communicate your desired level of involvement and your expectations at the outset.
Questions to consider when outsourcing your marketing:
Marketing agencies often employ different types of account managers, writers, and designers.
Some are expert collaborators; others are better at producing with minimal directives. By asking these questions now, you’ll establish common ground for everyone.
PRO TIP: It’s okay to start off your relationship with your agency in a more heavily-invested state. Perhaps you want to read everything they produce in the first quarter or two, then once you have more trust (and results), and you can take more of a backseat. Finding the right agency relationship means you can come to trust them as much as you trust your internal employees.
Eventually, you should aim to get to a place where you assign a task, and they run with it, only involving you according to how you want - and need - to be involved. This is the difference between working with a vendor and working with a strategic business partner.
It goes without saying that success with an agency should be measurable and specific. And those goals sometimes span beyond the marketing department. As you define specific KPIs and metrics that you’d like your agency to help you meet, it’s important to ask yourself:
Saying “we need more traffic” is vague and can lead to frustration when it comes time to review the success of your partnership with an agency.
Saying, “we need to significantly increase our organic traffic so that we can drive 10 new MQLs per quarter by Q2 next year” -- now that’s a SMART goal.
Make a list of goals that include numbers, percentages, and timelines. A good outsourced marketing agency will have the insight to help you determine where you stand currently and which figures are reasonable. Then, using your goals as a guide, the agency can propose targeted strategies to meet or exceed those goals.
PRO TIP: Goals and success may look different depending on your perspective. Try to think of what success looks like from multiple angles. We like to ask our clients the following questions:
- What does success look like for the overall business?
- What does success look like for marketing?
- What does success look like for sales?
- What needs to happen for you to say, “I am so happy I engaged with PMG to do this work!”?
- What potential obstacles are there to any of these successes?
Why did you hire an outsourced marketing agency in the first place? If you were just looking for some order-takers and executors to implement basic work, that’s one thing. If you’re looking for strategic, digital B2B marketing partners to create, review, challenge, and optimize your entire marketing strategy, then that’s a different story.
Your agency is probably engaged with a handful of other businesses in your same industry. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.
Even though you know your business better than anyone, consider that your agency may have insights into marketing best practices and successful outcomes that you don’t.
If they challenge an idea, process, or outcome, try to rely on their experience so that you can be successful together.
We always recommend hiring an agency that can serve as a strategic business partner in helping you accomplish your goals.
There are lots of great benefits that come with outsourced marketing. Instant gratification is not typically on the list.
Remember that marketers are trying to balance your input and preferences against the many best practices that have proven effective across all business sectors. There’s a learning curve on both ends of the equation.
If the first effort is less than stellar, judge your agency's ability to incorporate feedback. Grade them on listening skills and follow-up.
“Give and take” is the best way to ensure your agency will consistently meet your expectations and deliver even better work in the long run.
PRO TIP: While you should expect a bit of time for on-boarding, don’t be afraid to ask your agency how they are working behind the scenes to drive immediate value from your engagement. There are plenty of tasks your agency can complete during the on-boarding process to make sure things move smoothly and quickly.
Your agency will do its research, yes. The agency may already have some industry-related clients. Still, they aren’t walking in your shoes every day.
The reality is: you know your business the best. So expect to be one-part marketer and one-part teacher to your new agency.
How? Share your secrets. Send links to the articles and reports you love. Send along newsletters, LinkedIn groups, or channels that you subscribe to.
Be clear about who your business competitors are. What do they do that you like? Forward any samples of great work that you find.
When you’re jolted from sleep by a brilliant, brand-based epiphany, call your marketing team. They’re probably awake, too.
PRO TIP: When working with new clients, we like to get the inside scoop into everything that’s important to their customers. That includes asking about:
- The places their customers go for news, insights, and to socialize online
- What acronyms, lingo, shorthand, or other language do they use?
- How do they search and find products online? And how often?
- What kinds of content do they prefer to consume? Whitepapers? Videos? Social media?
- What tradeshows, events, or online media do they attend to develop their careers or business?
If you know the answers to all of these, send them along to your agency. The more information they have, the better they can develop and curate a strategy that’s best for YOUR business.
Part of the reason you’re hiring an outsourced marketing department is to avoid overloading your team with additional duties. As a part of that team, YOU are also susceptible to overload, burnout, tunnel vision, over-caffeination —and other horrible work-related fates.
Don’t be afraid to pass the baton. Everyone on your staff has unique insights. Some employees may even have a knack for blogging or an active interest in social media.
These are great opportunities to start merging outsourced strategies with in-house talent.
And somewhere down the road, you may find you don’t need so many dedicated hours from your agency.
PRO TIP: If you've made it this far, you're probably considering work with an agency. This guide can help. Check out 8 Signs You're Ready to Outsource Your Marketing for even more advice on a well-managed marketing partnership.
Sometimes your business needs and goals change. Sometimes you need to be flexible.
Sometimes you need to give feedback on a deliverable that didn’t meet your expectations. Other times you may not get along with your account manager or point of contact.
Do you need more reporting? Do you need less involvement in the overall marketing process? Do you need to meet more frequently?
Working with an agency has an enormous amount of benefits for your business. But a relationship with this much investment isn’t always easy. It’s important to have level-headed conversations with your agency representatives and agency management regularly.
A great agency will check in with you often about your satisfaction. But if that’s not the case, it’s important that you speak up so that everyone can realign and get back to meeting your business goals.
Read more: How Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency Promotes Company-Wide Alignment
We’ve worked with a lot of incredible clients over the years. Here are some of our favorite questions to answer. And while these are great to ask before you begin an engagement, your agency should be prepared to answer them during any stage of your relationship.
Check out this blog post for a complete list of questions before hiring an inbound marketing agency. We've included an interactive PDF download you can print as well.
It happens often. You work with an agency but then, for one reason or another, it just doesn’t work out. We wrote about this topic comprehensively in this guide right here. If you are transitioning from one agency to another, here are some key tips to keep in mind:
Managing your outsourced agency doesn't have to be difficult. At Precision Marketing Group, we embrace four key standards: Excellence, Integrity, Flexibility and Fun. That's right. With the right agency, your partnership can be fun.
If you want to learn more about how we can help you grow your business by 40% (like we did for our client Kardex), get in touch today. We'd love to start learning more about your business.
Want to keep learning more? Here's another guide on agency management to keep this momentum rolling.
Tracy Horton has been an integral part of PMG since 2015. She’s a strategy, sales, technology and SaaS ninja, and loves to write about sales and marketing integration (as ninjas do). While she’s fighting off the evil forces of low SEO rankings and poor marketing strategy, she somehow finds the time to write blogs – and loves hearing from readers. So, if you want to know more, let her know!