As a functioning, successful business in this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to avoid working with agencies — outsourcing is ubiquitous, and growing rapidly. According to a report by Statista, the global outsourcing market was $92.5 billion in 2019 alone. And once you do decide to outsource, you’ll find you have a lot of choice. There were around 40,000 marketing agencies operating just in the U.S. in 2018. Traditionally, businesses have to decide whether to go with a full-service marketing agency or hire multiple agencies with specialized offerings. The latter allows you to avail of experts in each area, but it will likely come at a higher cost. Many businesses, however, seem quite willing to make that trade-off.
Businesses adopting this trend are increasingly finding that it’s changing the way their internal workforce manages its time. Working with multiple agencies tends to put an extra demand on the time of your marketing managers. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for companies to hire marketing managers for the express purpose of managing agencies!
In this blog, we explore some of the challenges you might run into as you deal with different vendors, and more importantly, how to overcome them and establish seamless working relationships with your multiple agencies.
Establish the Rules of Engagement
This is something you should do at the very outset of every partnership with a vendor. Start with business goals, short-term and long-term. Set out goals for every campaign or project and pin them up on a common vision board. This will ensure that your multiple agencies are all pulling together. When working with several different agencies, be certain to outline the scope of work for each engagement and institute clear-cut KPIs for each agency. That way, they’ll be fully clued into what’s expected of them. It also helps you to assess effectiveness.
Create A Unified Database
Strong communication between the agency and client is necessary to share resources, including design assets, brand guidelines, briefing materials, and more. Often, access requests can get mired in approval delays, leading to a prolonged back and forth to procure the right asset. In the meantime, the actual work of producing the go-to-market deliverables gets put on the backburner. A handy way to resolve this is to create a single database of necessary assets that can be shared among the relevant stakeholders of your multiple agencies, with differing permissions as necessary. Does your content partner need to access statistics from a report provided by your analytics agency a year ago? Does your web design company need the raw layout for a landing page created last month? Imagine the amount of time your agency personnel saves if they’re able to just log in to the database to retrieve the necessary items. This is all time they’re able to then spend working on your task.
Hold Regular Meetings
Nothing beats regular weekly meetings for getting work done with multiple agencies. It helps you keep a tab on your agencies’ progress. It also helps your agencies get the required approvals they need, as well as clarify any outstanding minor details and minutiae that can get lost in emails. Sometimes, it’s just a way of injecting some accountability in the relationship when working with agencies and external personnel who don’t directly report to you. It’s also a good opportunity to implement course corrections where necessary, in the middle of a campaign or asset development. Meetings conducted face-to-face or via video call are recommended at least once a week. Open communication is key to helping your internal and external teams familiarize themselves with each other and establish the kind of relationships that intra-workplace colleagues would have.
Recruit the Right Skill Sets
If you’re working with multiple agencies and will continue to for the foreseeable future, you should start thinking about its impact on organizational strategy; specifically, the expertise you choose to cultivate within your company and that which you outsource. Businesses should align their recruitment policy to focus on creating complementary skill sets between the company and its vendors. This can do a lot to eliminate the divide that traditionally exists between clients and agencies, and unlock collective value. Gallup research shows that people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work, and teams that focus on strengths every day are 12.5% more productive.
Say you’re hiring a mid-level marketing manager. Do you need a strategic thinker? Or a project manager who’s able to oversee multiple agencies and shepherd a project through different stakeholders? Recruiting a candidate who’s been an agency account manager in the past isn’t a bad idea in this situation.
Imagine another scenario. If you know you’re never going to manage social media in-house, there’s no point hiring a generic PPC executive. It might be more prudent to hire a Google Ads expert. This kind of planning ensures that your internal personnel spends time working with your multiple agencies and avoids the potential clashes that can result from overlapping job descriptions.
Funnily enough, this is something that happens far less than common sense dictates it should. You suspect it’s because businesses would have to acknowledge and respond to the fact that external vendors are having an impact on their internal processes.
As a business manager, the secret to working seamlessly with multiple agencies often lies in reducing your perspective of the distinction between your company and the agency. Treat your agency personnel as if they were your own employees. Hold them accountable as such, reward their successes, and get them invested in your goals. Results will follow.