Communications is an important part of any business, regardless of your goals – awareness, community engagement, recruitment, business development etc. When you are ready to commit to hiring an agency to assist you in reaching these goals it is important to understand how to work with this outside team.
This familiarization period, or as we call it ‘kick-off’ is why #Team834 has an outlined process for onboarding new clients. This process includes: team introduction, internal communication process, goals, expectations for both client and agency, timeline and a handbook that outlines all of these items. Even after all of these steps, we still find that some clients struggle with working with an agency.
To assist you and to hopefully lessen any frustration on both ends, we outlined 7 things you need to know/do/appreciate when working with an agency.
- Set goals. Your company should have clear goals set before hiring an agency. These should be as specific as possible and remember communication activities support sales they are not sales. For example you could say that you want to increase awareness in your local community. The agency may interpret this to be: earned media, speaking opportunities, community engagement (an outreach plan), blogging, social media etc.
- Time. Results do not happen overnight, especially if you have sat idle for months or years with no importance being placed on communication. Within the first 3 months of working with an agency you can expect that a strategy will be drafted, goals defined, campaigns outlined, process and foundation set and agreed upon. We won’t take on clients unless they agree to at least a 6 month engagement. Why? Because it takes time for us to learn your business, develop your strategy, tools and tactics. If you are impatient and expect your business to grow by 50% overnight, then you will be sorely disappointed. Just basic SEO will take up to 3 months to take effect.
- Point person. Identify a person within your company that will be the point person to work with the agency. That means they are responsible for communicating needs, feedback and approving items on behalf of your company. Remember, an agency CANNOT move forward without approval from you. It is also very important that this person receives buy in from the leadership team. We have found that we may have a great relationship with our point person, but that person is not communicating up the chain.
- Responsiveness. I can’t speak for all agencies, but I can speak for 834 and we set a very aggressive timeline for our clients. This means we map out review dates, deadlines, publish dates, pitch dates, etc. However, we can only move the timeline forward if the client responds, gives feedback and approves items. 9 times out of 10, the client is the hold up.
- Know your team. Get to know all parts of your agency team. Who is in charge of design, copywriting, public relations, who is your project manager? This will assist you in streamlining communication on your end by knowing who to send requests to, always copying the project manager – that way they can move it forward on the agency end.
- Listen. You hired the agency for a reason and that is to build your brand and public trust in your company. The agency may suggest strategies that are out-of-the-box and not typical for your company. They will give you feedback on press releases, blogs, social media – this comes from years of experience and a proven track record. Trust them, allow them to push the limits and you will be surprised.
- Measure. What metrics will you set for success? Agencies, at least good ones, measure everything. Now with more traditional methods that is not always possible, however in this digital age where inbound marketing is incredibly important, there are multiple ways to measure success. 834 looks at analytics across the board – blogging, social media, email marketing, earned media, website traffic/sources, forms and more. Agencies do not have the ability to measure phone calls, personal emails or drop-ins, that is up to the client. Ask new customers how they heard about you and you can often track that back to your communication efforts.
Following all of the above tips will assist your company in managing the agency relationship, while also setting clear expectations from the get-go to reduce frustration and friction.
Not all agencies are created equal, however working together to set a process that works for your company will ensure all parties are on the same page. All communication efforts support your company goals; make sure those goals are realistic and attainable.