If you haven’t already figured it out, marketing is the wild wild west. Lots of new processes and technologies plus low barriers to provider entry means that marketing vendors are a dime a dozen, but there are clear ways to make sure you approach your next marketing partner with a higher degree of certainty. On the flipside, here are a few pitfalls to avoid:
Not viewing them as a partner
For some marketers this point is obvious. Why would you not work in partnership with a marketing agency and empower both your team and theirs to succeed? For other enterprise marketers, it can truly be a challenge to break down the siloed walls of marketing, sales, operations and finance to arrive at a go-forward strategy that everyone can get on board with. That said, the best thing that you can do in selecting a marketing partner is to be honest about the situation that both of you are entering. Anything less has the potential for hurt feelings and a bitter mouth taste later in the relationship.
Unclear selection criteria
Call it what you want: cart before the horse, solution without a problem, prescription before diagnosis – many marketers make decisions on hiring and firing agency partners for the wrong reasons. Some reasons are definitely better than others (agreed-upon performance KPIs, performance to scope of work) but many marketing leadership teams don’t take the time necessary to come to an agreement on what would constitute a renewal or a firing because:
- It’s uncomfortable
- It’s hard to predict the future
The reality is though, if the definition of success is unclear between the two parties, heartache will likely be the outcome. For a better partner selection, find a trusted advisor who can help you write your scope of work or request for proposal. If you trust your agency partner enough to act as a fiduciary, they can help you as well.
Poor alignment of strengths and weaknesses
If both you and your agency are great at managing native advertising, then why hire for it? Logic would tell us that marketing teams should hire partners that help shore up their own weaknesses, and vice versa. However, it’s often hard to accurately self-prescribe the weak areas of your own team.
It’s also hard to boil the ocean. Few agencies are truly ambidextrous and full service, so it’s critical to have alignment between the strengths of the marketing partner and the weaknesses of corporate team (and vice versa).
I don’t often quote Seth Godin, but he’s on to something here:
It’s a mistake to believe that people know all the facts before they decide. In fact, most of the time, we decide and then figure out if we need to get some facts to justify our instinct. There are two common causes of uninformed dissent:
The first is a person who fears change, or is quite happy with the status quo. He doesn’t have to read your report or do the math or listen to the experts, because the question is, “change” and his answer is, “no.”
The second (quite common in a political situation), is the tribal imperative that people like us do things like this. No need to do the science, or understand the consequences or ask hard questions. Instead, focus on the emotional/cultural elements and think about the facts later .
So how do I avoid these pitfalls?
If you’re sensing a pattern with these problems, you’re right. These issues stem from a lack of alignment between marketing teams and their agency partners. Having not answered the simple, but sometimes difficult question “Why are we here?” we often forgo the benefits that come with an agreement about the ‘why’ of the situation.
The easy (but insufficient) answer to this question is “We need a marketing partner.”
So often, without a more insightful (and self-aware) answer to this question, we fall into the aforementioned pitfalls. And so, in the next circumstance we find ourselves in that requires an RFP, or agency interviews, let’s all agree to allow the petulant children in the conversation continue to ask “Why” until we come to an agreement about why we’re all sitting around a table together.
In the meantime, we’ve collected (an albeit biased) collection of questions you should ask your next agency. Check it out!