Do’s and don’ts of successfully boarding a new marketing agency


Aimee is the CEO and leading visionary at Madison Taylor Marketing. Read more here.

Outsourcing marketing efforts to an external digital marketing agency can help organizations achieve large-scale results. However, hiring an agency can feel like a series of high-stakes decisions for many companies. Not only do companies have to decide who to work with, but they also have to decide how they are going to do it. Then companies still run the risk of experiencing frustrations and tensions while working with their selected agency, even if they seem to have made the best possible decisions.

The reality is that even if companies choose the perfect agency, there is no guarantee that it will wholeheartedly put the well-being of the company above its own. This reality creates a lot of frustration and fear for companies, often exacerbated by the lack of customer-facing services in traditional agency relationships.

However, when the right agency is selected and reasonable best practices are implemented, companies can mitigate and even prevent these risks, effectively reaping the benefits of outside resources. The secret here lies in a company’s ability to create strategic onboarding processes that ensure needs are prioritized and met.

Successful onboarding: three key principles

As a global digital marketing agency that believes the success of the customer’s organization should be the #1 priority, my company has worked extensively with customer partners around the world to develop customer-centric onboarding processes that put the needs of the business first. Through these experiences, I have discovered three fundamental onboarding principles that drive successful onboarding experiences.

1. Consistent communication and knowledge sharing: Companies need to gather as much information about the agency as possible and teach the agency everything it needs to know about the organization. Once a company and an agency are on the same page, consistent communication is key. Setting up weekly progress meetings and clear expectations for communication creates a foundation for shared knowledge and information.

2. Shared understanding of systems and processes: In addition to discussing a company’s objectives and metrics, it is also critical to develop a shared understanding of its systems and processes. By thoroughly exploring and reviewing the company’s processes, the company and agency can create a shared understanding of relevant systems. This shared understanding promotes efficiency and helps ensure expectations are met.

3. Joint Goal Setting, Strategy Development and Performance Evaluation: Companies and agencies can work together to create a joint plan. Companies must first work with agencies to set goals for their marketing efforts. After this, the company and agency must determine the nature and direction of the marketing strategy. After the goals are set and the strategy is implemented, the company and agency should meet regularly to evaluate the results and adjust their approach accordingly.

Companies and marketing agencies can implement these onboarding principles to cultivate positive partnerships that deliver tangible business results. However, businesses and agencies need to avoid a few common missteps along the way.

Mistakes to avoid in business-agency partnerships

Mistakes that can ruin firm-agency collaboration are often the result of short-sighted business goal setting or conflict avoidance behaviors. In either case, the lasting negative impact on the firm-agency partnership far outweighs the perceived benefits that motivate making these mistakes in the first place. With a little foresight and planning, companies can easily avoid these problems.

1. Unrealistic Expectations: Companies want their agency to perform quickly and show results. After all, the relationship is an investment. However, unrealistic expectations regarding production lead time and target achievement will often increase the likelihood of errors in activation efforts and reduce the possibility of achieving the desired results. Worse, it can encourage the pursuit of corner-cutting methods that can cause lasting brand damage.

Tip: Work openly with your new agency partner on timing and goal setting to ensure both parties have input into the final expectations set to develop and execute a thoughtful and strategic plan.

2. Changing Directions Too Quickly: Campaign building and activation activities need sufficient time to generate returns. Don’t shift to your agency partner too quickly unless the circumstances demand it, and ask your agency partner lots of questions if they seem to be constantly shifting their strategic approach on you. Especially since a new relationship is being built, allowing the first plans to be fully implemented and tested, both parties have a fair chance in evaluating the achievement of goals.

Tip: A full six-week data collection is usually good practice before considering major campaign adjustments, but both situational conditions and campaign volume can change this measure. Your agency partner needs to be agile, but everyone benefits from enough time for optimizations and data maturity.

3. Not being transparent about internal barriers: Maintaining discretion is the most understandable but potentially deadly of the common mistakes when building a new partnership. Of course, the partnership between the company and the agency should not be a completely open book relationship. On the other hand, it is vital to identify and share obstacles that the agency may face in fulfilling its contractual obligations, such as resistance to change from key stakeholders in positions of influence.

Tip: Keep in mind the nature of the work you’ve hired your agency partner for, and limit what you share about internal activities to what’s relevant to their work. By sharing what’s relevant, your agency can navigate where it needs to with political insight.

Turn high-stakes decisions into high-impact results

With a notable lack of customer focus in many outsourced agency relationships, it’s no surprise that organizations are hesitant to outsource their marketing efforts to external partners. While concerns about outsourcing are justified, thoughtful onboarding processes that encourage agencies to prioritize business needs and avoid errors can mitigate them. By implementing the lessons shared above, companies can make what appears to be a series of key decisions and turn them into a series of high-impact results. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?


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