For the past few decades, we’ve seen the size and scope of our clients’ internal marketing teams ebb and flow. Some have even gone as far as branding their in-house teams to feel more like an agency. Regardless of the size of your internal marketing teams, there’s always a need for an outside perspective – an objective point of view that only an external agency partner can provide.
One client recently shared, “We need an agency because you’ll bring us ideas we’re too afraid to try.” This reminded me of the value we bring as an outside agency – we’re largely free from history/what’s been tried before, team dynamics, egos and other factors that sometimes get in the way of the creative process.
As with any partnership, it’s important that it be navigated carefully. Agencies can sometimes be viewed negatively by internal teams who may feel like the agency gets the “fun” assignments, while the internal team gets relegated to production work. But in our experience, the arrangement can also work seamlessly and effectively.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years that will maximize the strengths of both internal teams and agencies and result in strong and productive partnerships:
Determine skillsets. As the agency/client relationship is being finalized, have an open and honest conversation about where both teams can provide each other the most value. Does anyone on either team have any specialized skills like HTML5, motion graphics or photography that may come in handy during the creative production process? Work to identify and communicate (communication is often forgotten) roles so everyone feels like a valued member of the team.
Hold an onboarding meeting. Before any work begins, schedule a kickoff meeting with key members of both teams. Allow both teams to share their perspectives on the types of work that may be needed as well as past successes. It’s important for the agency to know who the key team members are and for the client team to know the scope for the agency. Important questions to be answered: Who will own strategy/planning? What’s the desired process for initiating a new assignment? What are realistic timelines for various types of work? What’s the desired communication flow and/or meeting cadence?
Create a digital space for sharing. In instances where both teams are actively contributing, it’s important to have a digital space where information and assets can be shared. Tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Basecamp provide good resources for collaboration. Try to find common established tools within both organizations to keep the learning curve to a minimum and IT teams at bay.
Find opportunities to co-create. Everyone in the marketing industry likes to create, so find ways to leverage various perspectives and skills. Ways to collaborate include: brief development, strategy sessions, creative review meetings and others. Also, look for ways to teach each other a few things. It may seem counter-intuitive for an agency to teach their clients to do what they can do, but I’ve never experienced losing business for up-skilling our client partners. Likewise, agencies can learn a lot from client partners in technical and industry-specific ways.
Share results. Whether it’s monthly or quarterly, make a point to share results on both sides. Agencies should share results on marketing metrics, while clients should share what’s happening at the business level. Marketing metrics are vanity data points if they’re not driving organizational KPIs. It’s important that both are communicated so any optimization in campaign strategy can be made throughout the course of a campaign.
Agency/client partnerships are like any other relationship. They require communication, respect and trust. What other best practices have you and your teams developed for integration of internal and agency teams to create great partnerships?
If you’d like to explore a partnership between Borshoff and your internal team, we’d love to talk! Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].