Online marketing firms offer many advantages over trying to do all the work in-house, or hiring independent contractors to execute your strategy. Firms tend to have more expertise, more specific resources to pull into your campaign, and ultimately can save you money (since they’ll work more efficiently and may be able to guarantee results).
However, before you sign a contract with a marketing firm to handle all your online marketing and advertising needs, there are some important tips for collaboration you should consider.
Improving Your Results
Every agency-client relationship is going to require input from both parties if the campaign is going to be successful. Accordingly, you’ll need to follow these tips—at a minimum—if you want to maximize your chances for success:
- Turn on your buzzword detector. Marketing firms like to use buzzwords and other ambiguous forms of language to give you an answer even when they don’t have one at the ready. For example, they might tell you they’re “optimizing” your landing page—but what does that really mean? Pay attention to these ambiguous uses of words, and don’t let a buzzword stand between you and a real answer.
- Make sure you understand everything. Along similar lines, take the time to make sure you understand everything. You don’t need to be an expert in every marketing-related task your agency executes—after all, you’re paying them for their expertise—but you should have a basic idea of what’s going on behind the scenes. Follow up with questions if you don’t understand the motivation behind a specific tactic, or if you aren’t sure how it’s being executed.
- Push for transparency. Some marketing agencies like to keep client communication as light as possible, keeping the details of the work hidden. This may work for some business owners, but you’ll get more out of the experience if you push for transparency. Ask who’s going to be working on your account and how things work internally; it can give you a better context for your successes and failures.
- Set expectations for communication early on. Effective communication between your organizations is going to be key to your success. So if you can, set expectations for that communication as clearly and as early as possible. For example, how often do you expect to be contacted each week or month? What communication mediums are best? What days of the week are you going to meet? These are important to hash out early.
- Provide a clear understanding of your brand and goals. Your brand is going to provide the foundation for any and all content and advertising that comes out under your name. Make sure your agency has a clear and firm understanding of what your brand is, including its image and voice. You’ll also want to be clear on what your goals are for this relationship; the agency may be able to recommend some KPIs to track, but you need to be the one to set the overarching vision, and define “success” for the partnership.
- Build a personal relationship (if you can). If possible, work with one or two individuals within the agency. If you’re constantly passed around to different account managers or customer service representatives, you won’t have the chance to build a personal rapport. That personal rapport is important when you’re trying to solve a tough problem together, or if you have a recurring issue that needs to be ironed out.
- Know how to negotiate. Finally, take the time to learn how to negotiate better deals. You’ll be able to use this skill initially when you finalize your first contract, hopefully getting a better rate or more services, but you can also use it throughout the campaign. For example, you may be able to get additional content or inbound links if you’re going through a plateau, or you might be able to extend or prematurely end the contract with greater ease.
Reevaluating and Improving
Your partnership with your new online marketing firm is just that—a partnership. And like any partnership, it’s going to take time to fully develop. Pay close attention to how the dynamic changes over time, and don’t be afraid to ask for further changes to give you more of what you need. Periodically reevaluate the working relationship, as objectively as possible, and only keep moving forward if it’s working out for your company.