Hiring an outsourced marketing agency - or any outsourced specialist for your business - is a big decision. It’s not much different than hiring an internal person. You’ll work with these people to get important work done. They have deep knowledge about your business and processes,and you want to ensure they’re capable and a good fit. We have clients we’ve been working with forten years, which is very cool. We are a part of the team, which allows us to do our best work and bring the most value.
More than a few clients have contacted us because their marketing agency wasn’t cutting it. We come in as the clean-up crew and get everything running smoothly. Those hiring mistakes cost BIG, so choosing the right specialist with the mindset that they can do the job until completion or ongoing like an employee is essential to maintaining business growth momentum.
Each agency is unique and brings different skills and resources to the table, so the first step is to determine what specialty you need, such as a particular technology (HubSpot) or a special skill (software development). Once you hone in on your business gap and need, start interviewing specialists. Beyond skill level, here are seven things you should expect from any outsourced specialist you hire. If these seven things aren’t happening, skill won’t matter.
1. A Holistic Business Growth Plan
Marketing is complex, and agencies are becoming increasingly specialized: paid advertising, content marketing, events, PR, billboards, lead generation, branding, reputation management, websites - the list goes on. It goes without saying that they’ll have a plan for what they will do for your company, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A marketing initiative doesn’t operate in a silo - it works in concert with your entire business growth strategy. Expect your marketing agency to think beyond their piece of the pie, take time to learn about your organization, and closely evaluate how their program can add value to your overarching goals and objectives. Here’s an example of how to create a cohesive strategic marketing plan.
2. Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities
Here are two reasons why defining roles and responsibilities at the earliest stages of an engagement with an outsourced marketing agency is essential.
- Improve efficiency: When additional resources are added to help with new marketing initiatives, there can be a lot of confusion at the beginning. Just like the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a team to accomplish marketing goals. One person can’t do it alone. The goal is to get everyone working together in the most efficient manner possible.
- Increase enthusiasm: Another consideration is the elephant in the room: sometimes, internal marketing teams can feel threatened by an outsourced agency because they feel devalued or are worried about job security — hard feelings and potentially even sabotage don't do anyone any good. The goal is to ensure everyone buys into the new initiatives and feels like a valued part of the process.
Expect your agency to understand this and make a concerted effort to help clearly define roles and responsibilities so everyone knows who’s responsible for what. They should strive to make the internal team shine, not run roughshod over them.
3. Clear Expectations
Not knowing what your agency is working on, who’s doing what, or when to expect it done is a recipe for disaster. Expect your agency to use a project management system to detail the upcoming tasks and due dates so you can follow the progress of each item. If you already use a project management tool in-house, you can discuss with your agency which tool and process you want to use moving forward.
It doesn’t matter much what the process is as long as there is one and everyone understands and adheres to it. Here’s an example of a primary way to use project management to have a full view of the progress of the marketing plan, collaborate with team members, and get work done.
4. Access to All Assets at All times
The assets - any documents, files, videos, datasets, etc. - a marketing agency creates on your behalf are your property. Organizations should have access to all their assets at all stages of development and beyond.
Expect your marketing agency to use a cloud document management system that you have full rights and access to all the files, videos, and documents the agency creates on the company's behalf. All assets should be neatly organized, appropriately named, and easy to find. Of course, if you already have a document management system and process in place, you can discuss the best way to move forward with your agency.
5. Meaningful Meetings
Well-planned meetings allow time to discuss questions or concerns that are too lengthy to cover in an email or comment on a task, maintain accountability, and strategize about the upcoming agenda.
Expect your marketing agency to meet with you regularly to keep projects moving forward.
6. Reports & analysis
Marketing results and return on investment are not always clear-cut, but setting goals and creating reports to measure your progress can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing plan.
Expect your agency to share and review reports with you regularly, and offer strategic insights and recommendations to help you meet your business objectives.
7. Responsive Support
There’s nothing worse than needing to communicate with your marketing agency but you get back crickets. Expect your marketing agency to respond within a reasonable amount of time. They should define the expectations up-front so everyone is on the same page.
Once you’ve determined that hiring an outsourced marketing agency is a strategy that can help you get the skills and resources needed to accomplish your business goals and objectives, take time to learn about their work methods and values. It will go a long way to ensuring a fruitful relationship.
While we often feel a little like "outsiders" as outsourced service providers and wish we could connect more closely with our clients, the benefit is that we get to hone our specialty under various leadership styles, teams, and use cases. We also get to streamline processes and roll out improvements and efficiencies to our clients. We learn so much and really enjoy sharing our knowledge and experience across our client family!