3 tips for getting more support from your agency

How can your business get maximum benefit from marketing agencies? Katherine Hawkley, account director for The Marketing Pod, takes a look at the core competencies you should look for when choosing your agency, the difference between specialist and generalist agencies, and how you can get the most from the working relationship. 

Working with a marketing agency can help you to take your B2B campaigns to the next level, but having a good working relationship with your agency is crucial to ensure you’re getting the most value from their expertise. 

At The Marketing Pod, we’ve all worked both client and agency-side, so we understand the challenges facing both in-house marketing managers and their agencies. Here are some of the insights we’ve picked up along the way.

1. Find an agency that fits

In our experience, the most successful client-agency relationships are the ones where the agency becomes an indispensable extension of the client’s in-house team. For that reason, it’s important to think really carefully about who you choose to work with and to apply the same principles you would need when recruiting a new team member. 

Most importantly, ‘Are they the right fit?’. Don’t be blinded by a bright flashy presentation if the people delivering it aren’t really your cup of tea, as you will be working with these people on a daily basis. It’s also important to make sure the people in front of you at the pitch are the people who will actually be working on your account, not a polished ‘sales team’ who immediately fade into the background. 

It’s also worth considering whether you choose to work with a specialist or generalist agency. In the B2B arena, products can be complex, and target audiences can be niche. Consider whether your agency has any prior experience in your sector or in a closely related industry. Check out who else they work with. Do you think you’re a good fit, and are you going to be a key account for them or one of their smaller clients? 

If your agency already has experience in your field, they will already have relevant contacts and a wealth of knowledge, which will enable you to hit the ground running and start seeing results sooner rather than later.

2. Know your requirements

It’s surprising how many clients appoint agencies without really understanding what it is they want to achieve from the relationship, or with a very prescriptive idea of what they want, and this can lead to frustrations on both sides. We love nothing more than getting creative with campaigns, but if there isn’t a clear and well-thought-through plan in place from the outset, this can lead to more rounds of amends and less successful outcomes, which means your budget isn’t being spent as effectively as it could be. 

Taking time to set out a clear strategic plan sets clear expectations on both sides. It’s fine to learn as you go and make adjustments, but realistic timescales, targets and budgets keep everyone on track. For us, it all starts with a clear briefing process, which has to be a collaboration between the client and the account lead. Often, when we go through this process, we find that what the client actually needs isn’t quite what they initially thought, so it’s useful for refining a plan that will deliver the results they’re looking for. 

3. Work together

A client-agency relationship has to be a two-way street, or it just won’t work. You should expect to spend time with your agency to get them up to speed on your business, as no matter how well-versed they are in your industry it’s vital that they understand the unique needs of your organisation. 

Be really open and honest. You have employed them to help you, not to judge what’s gone before, so talk about your current approach, what’s worked previously (and what hasn’t), tell them your pain points and your frustrations. The sooner they get to grips with all of this, the quicker they will start to add value and maximise your investment. It’s also important to assign accountable people on your side to enable the relationship to progress smoothly and to make sure these people are empowered to make decisions and keep things moving. Agencies are experts at immersing themselves in a variety of industries and topics (it’s what many of us enjoy the most about our jobs!) but the more you are willing to put in, the more you will get out of the partnership.

Ultimately, making your agency an extension of your in-house team is the best way to ensure that they truly understand your business, your requirements and where they can add value - and with all of this information, they’ll be able to deliver exceptional campaigns.

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