In this guest post, co-founder of Sydney digital marketing agency Rocket and author of Smarter Marketer, James Lawrence (pictured below), shares his insights on how in-house marketers can avoid the agency break-up…
One of the bigger decisions faced by in-house marketers is how best to resource their campaigns. For many, an agency is part of the solution.
But, with the hourly cost of in-house marketers usually cheaper than an agency, clarity is needed to understand when the expense of working with an agency is justified.
Many hands make light work
As an agency head, I can talk to the unique benefits I believe an agency can deliver. In reality, there are pros and cons of both hiring an agency or bringing the skills in-house.
An in-house marketer can dig deep into your business and familiarise themselves in detail with all your processes, stakeholders and sensitivities in a way that an agency might not. There is value in a person devoting all their time to a single ‘client’. Let’s face it, it can also be reassuring to know you have a dedicated resource on your team.
By contrast, agencies bring numerous minds together and typically work as a team to support your goals. The different perspectives and expertise of these people can boost creativity and outcomes.
They may have access to resources and networks beyond what just one person can offer. In addition, agency teams have experience working across many other campaigns and usually across many different channels. They can be better placed to know what’s working across other industries at any point in time.
Agencies might also be able to respond more quickly to urgent needs, given more staff are available to shuffle priorities and jump on your cause at short notice. If being able to scale up (or down) quickly is important than an agency often has an advantage.
You can’t read the label from inside the bottle
It’s very common to see people who are too close to a problem struggle to solve it. It’s not uncommon to see in-house teams struggle with seeing their product or service as if through the eyes of their perfect customer. Instead they can see it through the eyes of an expert all too familiar with every aspect of it.
Agencies can be an excellent source of perspective and fresh eyes.
Communication is more complicated that you think
If you’ve decided an agency is the best way to solve your problem, you’ve reached the start of your journey. You’re invested and it’s important things work out. From my experience, the number one reason the client-agency relationship fails is communication.
It may sound trite. We’re all marketers and communication is what we do after all. How could this be a major weakness? But have you really stopped to consider exactly how you approach communication with your in-house and agency teams?
Explain what success looks like with clear expectations
The biggest step towards success in any new relationship is clearly setting expectations. This may feel a little unnatural, and for some people the start is all about the excitement of doing things differently, but the cost of skipping this step can be massive.
We encourage clients to tell us what success looks like for them. How will they measure success and across what time period? What are the realistic milestones to track our progress towards this goal?
Client-agency relationships should be a meeting of equals
It’s about respect. A meeting of equals who trust each other’s knowledge and judgement. If you’re going to engage an agency in a master-slave relationship, then it’s not going to work.
The best results are typically achieved when an agency has been well-briefed and supported and a goal clearly outlined. This allows them to do their best thinking and work when solving your problem. Appointing an agency and telling them exactly how to solve your problem will often limit the size of the win for both partie
Respectfully deliver positive and constructive feedback
Feedback isn’t about conflict. It’s about working as a team and facing the challenges together.
Some might think that positive feedback to an agency could encourage them to take the foot off the gas. But, think how you respond to positive feedback. Positive feedback is not only satisfying, it also tell us we’re doing something right and encourages us to reach for more of the same.
Equally if you have concerns or queries why something is happening, voicing that is important. The right agency will use your feedback to adapt and improve.
Don’t keep your agency in a silo
We do our best work when we can get a bigger picture of how our efforts fit into your plans and the results of our work.
Feed your agency access to information like sales data. Understanding the real impact of their work is critical to future strategy improvements.
While there is no magic bullet, if both parties come to the project with respect and commitment to the team, you’ll be much more likely to have entered a mutually beneficial relationship for the long-haul.