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4 Best Practices for Working With Multiple Agencies

Working with agencies

The agencies you’ve hired have promised to work alongside your organization to achieve bold marketing objectives. It’ll be a true partnership, they say; seamless and integrated, they say. But are they capable of working with each other? Perhaps. The real question here is, are you able to stay sane/focused/productive while working with multiple agencies?

Related: Pull all those agencies together with a masterful up-front marketing strategy.

I’ve worked with dozens of clients who had engaged eight or more agencies — eight. It requires full-time managers just to wrangle that marketing octopus, marketers whose talents are wasted while they serve as glorified project managers. So before you schedule your next agency planning meeting, think about how many agencies you really need. Ideally, it will be just enough to fit around a standard-issue conference table.

Once you have your team, chosen for their exceptional expertise and vision, here are the four ways to unify them.

1. Outline Your Rules of Engagement

Start by thinking through the parameters of the work, the rules of engagement. These include: 

  • Business goals
  • Brand strategy and style guide
  • Product/service and promotional road map
  • Key performance indicators

All of these should be based on your analysis of the market and owned by you, not your agencies.

Having one go-to guide would seem like an obvious approach, but you’d be surprised how often multiple teams form external marketing relationships independent of each other — and how quickly things can fall apart when they do. Without a streamlined focus from the client side, consistency will quickly go out the window.  

One of my old clients, a F100 company, had contracted several agencies, each with a different contact at the company. After months of working separately, those contacts finally went into a war room, threw all their marketing collateral up on the wall, and someone asked, “Does this all work together? Does it even look like it’s from the same company?” Predictably, the answer was no. Once they all got their heads together, however, they quickly identified what didn’t fit, and from there, solving the problems was painless. 

All agencies should be strategically aligned — each contributing a unique and essential piece of the puzzle — and each should also understand how they fit into the larger scheme. By seeing the moving parts, they can better identify processes that streamline the work. Your job is to demonstrate the customer journey and establish how each agency and its initiatives align to that journey to support and enhance it.

2. Don’t Forget Face Time 

I realize it’s the digital age, but constructive planning still requires face time. This is when stakeholders from the various agencies meet to form working relationships and understand how their skills fit into the broader strategic picture.

Face-to-face meetings remain the best way to foster collaboration, create a trusting relationship quickly, and, frankly, get work done. Bring agency partners together to create a sense of a shared mission. Stakeholders will know who’s accountable for what and determine what areas of overlap can be eliminated. And did I mention get work done?

3. Integrate Your Processes

Facilitate open lines of communication between team members. Maybe that requires a digital asset repository that includes logos, photography, and campaign information. If each agency is drawing from the same resource pool, it goes a long way toward brand consistency. Plus, it creates an efficient exchange of information and resources.

Imagine you want a new ad to refer to a relevant statistic used in last month’s annual summit presentation. Can you find it quickly? Streamline the process and ensure consistency by using a digital asset management system. Think of the time and money you’ll save by:

  • Reusing quality materials 
  • Being able to locate data quickly.

(Creatives will make their own systems if necessary, and the last thing you want is a bunch of agencies generating redundant assets.)

4. Utilize Integrated Metrics 

Everyone should be working from the same integrated metrics (the old apples-to-apples analogy) so they can see their work in the context of the greater strategy.

This requires metrics within each channel as well as insights into how the channels are working together to drive engagement and conversion. For large advertisers, media mix models are very effective tools to understand how individual channels, promotions, or even agencies perform relative to one another as well as how best to structure and fund your overall marketing mix.

It’s basic stuff, really: When you’re working with multiple agencies, a consistent focus, shared context, and integrated processes will bring any number of partners together to make your company’s personal dream-team. 

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