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12 tips on getting the most out of your digital marketing agency

Brand X works with a digital marketing agency. Results are great, targets are smashed, awards are won. Everyone’s happy!

Brand Y works with the same team at the same digital marketing agency. While results are an improvement from what went before, Brand Y is left feeling disappointed. It’s not quite the experience they had hoped for.

How can businesses have different experiences of the same agency team? It’s a good question. When you work with a digital marketing agency effectively, you benefit from a team of experts with specialised knowledge who can partner with your business to generate exceptional results.

Build a productive relationship with your digital marketing agency and avoid costly mistakes by following Oban’s twelve insider tips.


#1: Be clear about what you need from the outset

From the outset, be absolutely  clear about what you need and expect. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What are my business goals?
  • What are my marketing goals?
  • What are my channel goals?
  • Which countries do I wish to expand into?
  • Where will an agency fit into these goals?


Think about KPIs too:

  • How will you measure the relationship?
  • What metrics will you use to measure progress?
  • What are the current baselines for those KPIs?


#2: Make sure the scope of work aligns with your business goals

It’s essential that the agency’s scope of work is properly aligned to your goals and objectives. There are different ways to write a statement of work – for example, they can be deliverable-based or goal-based – but the important point is that the scope is detailed, accurately reflects what your business needs to achieve, and is aligned to your overarching business goals.


#3: Immerse the agency in your business and make them believers

Help your agency to immerse themselves in your business so they know it inside out:

  • Introduce them to people they may not be working with directly. The more people they know within your business, the more they will understand your company and how their work impacts others.
  • Provide brand and tone of voice guidelines, content calendars, and information about other marketing activity. If you have market research or industry reports, share them. Let the agency know which newsletters and LinkedIn groups are useful to your sector.
  • Where possible, invite the agency team to try your product or experience your service for themselves.
  • Show them behind the scenes – how the company is organised and how it operates. For example, can they listen to contact centre recordings to hear how customers interact with your business?
  • Involve the agency in key initiatives from the outset, so they understand your aims, ideas, and motivations from the beginning.

Share the good, the bad, and the ugly with your agency. The more they understand your business, the better equipped they are to structure a roadmap around your priorities and business reality.


#4: If you’re working with multiple agencies, introduce them

Businesses often work with multiple agencies and sometimes, in a cross-channel world, cross-overs can happen. For example, an SEO agency might produce work which has PR and social media implications, intersecting with the work your PR and social media agencies do. For this reason, it’s important that all agencies are aware of each other’s strategies and how they can be aligned. This doesn’t have to involve a huge amount of co-ordination – it could be as simple as a quarterly conference call or meeting to share plans and facilitate collaboration.


#5: Provide constructive criticism

Explain what does or doesn’t work and why. If your agency happens to go off track, let them know quickly and constructively. You should feel able to be honest with your new partners, speaking to them when something is missing, late or not as you expected. It’s important to be candid and direct about any potential dissatisfaction. Conversely, when you’re happy, say so. Even the most accomplished performers respond well to positive reinforcement.


#6: Think about how you work internally

Within large organisations, especially international ones, there are usually numerous stakeholders involved across multiple departments. Sometimes, agencies can act as connectors – updating different departments on what’s going on, or chasing or re-briefing internal teams. While this co-ordination is useful, it can also burn through agency time which could otherwise be used for specialist advice, research, or implementation. Companies can help agencies by:

  • Taking control of internal discussions by organising meetings to brief relevant stakeholders about projects.
  • Approving work or providing feedback promptly.
  • Not sitting on decisions for weeks or months on end. Your agency is made up of business people who will understand that business realities sometimes require delays or projects to be rescheduled. But be aware that long intervals can often amount to project restarts. Momentum is a precious thing. Once a project loses momentum, it can lose energy, cost more, and run the risk of becoming dated.
  • Reviewing reports with recommendations so that the recommendations can be approved.
  • Allowing time for great work. While quick turnarounds are sometimes essential, to produce high-calibre or award-winning work on a consistent basis, agencies need time and space to be creative.
  • Taking the time to consider whether you are sufficiently resourced to get the most from your agency services and if you have dedicated the right internal resources to partner with them in in strategy, implementation, and ongoing optimisation.


#7: Make sure you’re measuring and incentivising metrics that matter to you

Marketing campaigns should be measured. By considering KPIs at the outset, you will know what constitutes success for your business. Your agency should measure the results of each activity and provide ongoing reporting so you can see what returns you are getting for your investment. Make sure that any reporting dashboards are set up to track the metrics that matter most to your business. A reporting dashboard may require a few iterations before it’s 100% optimal for your business.


#8: Approach it as a partnership or collaboration

The best client/agency relationships work as partnerships, with mutual respect for expertise. It may sound like semantics but calling your agency a vendor – and treating them as one – is often counterproductive. Instead, trust and guide your agency as you would your colleagues – although clearly, trust must first be earned by the agency. When both agency and client become jointly vested in the best possible outcome, they work together as one team.

Invest some time in building personal relationships too. When teams like and respect each – and have some fun together – it has a positive impact on the work.


#9: Share your industry finds

Your agency will do its own research. They probably work with clients in the same sector or industry as you, giving them powerful insights. However, they aren’t walking in your shoes every day. You know your business best – so regularly share industry reports, market or competitor knowledge, and other insider information with your agency.


#10: Communicate your communication preferences with your agency

People prefer to communicate and receive information in different ways. They also have varying levels of technical knowledge and experience. A good agency will learn to accommodate your preferences. While most agencies will have standardised processes, they will also understand that no two accounts are the same. Whether you prefer to communicate over email, phone or face-to-face, like detailed sets of information or just the most critical points, make your preferences clear to your agency. The sooner you and your agency establish a way of communicating that works for you, the easier you will both find working together.


#11: Trust your marketing agency’s expertise

You chose your digital marketing agency for a reason. If you were simply looking for order-takers to implement basic activity, that’s one thing. But if you were looking for a strategic partner to help accelerate your business growth, that’s another.

Your agency will have worked with numerous businesses similar to yours. They will know what works and what doesn’t. If they have a specialism – such as international growth – they will have insights into best practices and what works in different markets. If your agency challenges an idea, process, or outcome, try to rely on their experience so that you can be successful together.


#12: Patience is a virtue

Naturally, you want to see results in return for your investment. And some aspects of digital marketing allow you to make an impact relatively quickly – such as restructuring a paid media campaign or making sensible UX changes to your website. But other aspects of digital marketing – such as organic SEO or content marketing – can take longer to pay dividends. Often, the work involves making incremental changes over time which individually, might be minor but cumulatively, add up to a significant competitive advantage.

A good digital marketing agency will manage your expectations at the start of your working relationship (and be wary of any SEO agency which promises overnight success or immediate results). Allow time to see results. Be patient and think long term.

. . .

To find out how Oban’s LIME network can help accelerate your brand’s international growth, please get in touch.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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