How effective is your online marketing agency relationship? A CMO Council study last year found that just 5% of marketers report longstanding relationships with their agencies and only 37% rate their relationships as relatively stable.
At TopRank Online Marketing, we enjoy longstanding relationships with clients and a better-than-average retention rate. We asked members of the TopRank team, some of whom have been with our agency since its earliest days, what advice they have for companies seeking a more productive, lucrative relationship with their agency. Working alongside our clients on a daily basis, they’ve learned that a number of factors contribute to the success of an online marketing campaign and that companies can influence their program’s success a great deal.
Finding the Right Online Marketing Agency for Your Business Needs
Evan Prokop, Associate Account Manager, recommends an in-depth interview process to determine which of the marketing agencies your company is considering is the best fit for your program. “Ask about their history of working with clients in your industry. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker if they don’t have extensive experience, as a good agency is adaptable, but it’s always nice to have some knowledge of your business environment at the beginning,” he said.
In addition, Prokop advises companies to ask potential agencies where they think online marketing is going. “Online marketing is one of the fastest evolving industries there is; a good agency will be constantly seeking to innovate and stay cutting edge,” he noted. Finally, be sure to ask what makes them different and better than the competition. They will be asking you this question as well, and should have a good answer themselves, said Prokop.
Relationships are key, according to Executive Director of Operations, Jolina Pettice. “When interviewing agencies, it’s important to consider philosophy, approach and working style. Each company (and agency) is different, but where there’s common ground there’s efficiency, results and ultimately fun to be had,” she pointed out.
Set Your Company Up for a Successful Agency Experience
There are a number of benefits to partnering with an agency to improve your company’s online marketing strategy, not the least of which is the experience and knowledge they can bring to the table. “Everybody has unique strengths and skill sets, and can’t do or be everything, which is where a relationship with a good agency is invaluable. A good agency will provide a service that your business either don’t currently have, or needs to improve in,” said Prokop.
Brian Larson, Account Manager and Strategic Lead, recommends that companies think of and treat their agency as part of their team. “It’s easy to get a ‘what can you do for us?’ attitude,” he cautions. “The truth is that better results are achieved through a ‘what can we do together?’ approach.”
Pettice advised that companies be ready to share information and collaborate. “The more you tell the agency and keep them in the loop, the better able they are to help you,” she said.
Companies can greatly improve their agency relationship and positively impact the success of their program by bringing two critical things to the table, said Pettice:
- A clear statement of objectives that will impact business outcomes, such as sales, conversions, inquiries, etc.
- A defined Unique Selling Proposition or a willingness to work together to determine what it is and how it translates to the brand story, messaging and online marketing mix.
Prokop echoes the importance of a defined vision: “Be totally upfront about what you want to get out of the program, even if you don’t know how to verbalize it in ‘marketing speak,'” he suggested. “A big part of the role of account managers is taking client’s big picture goals and devising a strategy to get there, but we can’t plan for what we don’t know. As your agency, we are your partners in success, so we need to know what success looks like to you.”
Tips for Effectively Working with Your Online Marketing Agency to Improve Program Performance
Once you’ve selected an agency whose skills, vision and direction coincide with your program goals and business needs, work alongside them as partners to achieve the best results. TopRank’s team offers the following tips for companies in an agency relationship:
- Be clear about what you want the agency to help you achieve.
- Share information early and often.
- Collaborate as much as possible. With the company’s knowledge of the business and the agencies knowledge of online marketing, there’s no limit to the ideas that can be generated.
- Communicate openly. As in any other relationship, communication is key. If your agency is doing something you really value, tell them. If they are doing something you don’t value, tell them that, too. Agencies are built on serving clients and want this information so that they can adjust accordingly.
- Be flexible to change. If everyone is clear on the goals, then all parties involved should also be willing to call ‘audibles’ during an engagement to update the marketing mix based on changing conditions. Blindly following a gameplan is not strategic, nor does it yield the best results.
- Be willing to take chances and test new ideas. This is where the magic happens!
Collaboration, communication and a true partnership approach to working with your online marketing agency lends to the success of your program. Enjoy a lasting and more productive, rewarding agency relationship with these tips from the TopRank Online Marketing trenches!
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