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Dec 11, 2007
Interview

10 Things You Should Know About Improving Your Agency's Relationship - Tips & Horror Stories

SUMMARY: When you outsource marketing to an agency, you expect them to handle most of the work. But that doesn’t let you off the hook in your marketing. Far from it.

You remain a key partner with the agency, which means you have to be a great communicator … and that takes effort. See what the head of one marketing agency says they need from their clients to work effectively. Plus, tips on how to help your marketing by helping your agency.
Communication between your company and your marketing agency is critical. You need to tell them what’s working, what’s not and how your customers react so they can create the best possible marketing plan for you. And you need to heed your agency’s counsel.

You might say: “Why wouldn’t I listen to my agency’s advice? After all, I hired them.” You would think that’s always the case, but ego and stubbornness often interfere.

Rich Carr, Founder and CEO, Carr Knowledge, for instance, has had clients refuse his advice on many occasions. “You know, it’s almost as obvious as you know you have to drive on the right-hand side of the road and when the lights are red you need to stop. They were saying, ‘Well, you don’t necessarily have to drive on the right, and we don’t see lights.’ And it’s like, do you want to be in the car with them? Well, hell no. Go crash.”

To avoid accidents, Carr has 10 strategies and suggestions on how clients can communicate better with their agencies:

Give Your Agency Lots of Information
When you first hire a marketing agency, you must provide a great deal information. The more you provide, the more the agency can help you:

->Tip #1. Have a goal

The first question Carr asks every new client is: “What are we celebrating this time next year?” This goal serves as the focal point around which an agency builds a marketing effort. It could be anything, including:
o Increase sales
o Boost market share
o Sell a certain product
o Sell through a certain channel
o Other

If your goal is one of the above, make sure it’s tied to an exact percentage. Without that benchmark, your goal will be too vague to be targeted and met. “If you have no idea of where you’re going, you’re not going to get there. And if all the people that work for you don’t know what that goal is, then they’re just showing up at work and waiting until 5 o’clock to go home. Everybody has to be working for this goal,” Carr says.

-> Tip #2. Hand over all your sales and marketing information

Before you meet with the agency, have enough information to answer any questions they might have; it needs it to give you a thorough investigation. “To use an analogy, it’s as if you’re a high school athlete and I’m going to give you a physical,” Carr says. “I mean I’m going to know everything about your business.”

This includes:
o Prior marketing efforts, including duration, cost and ROI
o Sales information broken down by source, location and item
o Know what types of marketing work for you and what don’t

“Most businesses have their P&L [profit and loss statement], they live by their P&L,” Carr says. “And we can go through that and ask questions like, ‘What happened when you did this?’ ‘What are your best sales months?’ ‘What do you do during those months?’ ‘What do you say you’re doing during those months?’ I mean literally dissect everything that works.”

When asking these questions, Carr and his clients often stumble into things that work better.

->Tip #3. Leave your ego at home

By hiring an agency, you’ve admitted that your marketing needs help. Keep your ego out of the relationship. Don’t withhold information that makes your earlier marketing look better or stronger. Provide accurate information and numbers. The more honest information you can provide, the more the agency can help.

Offer Feedback
After your marketing plan is up and running, continue to provide feedback. This will help the agency discover new tactics and learn which campaigns are working and which aren’t.

“Generally, they’re just discussions. Think of your doctor. You go in there, ‘How are you feeling.’ ‘Well, everything’s great, except when I do this, it hurts.’ It’s the same thing with marketing. We talk a lot, just like, ‘How are things going? How are you feeling about stuff? How’s this location?’ ” says Carr.

Types of information an agency wants includes:

- Sales
Your sales figures are usually the first numbers most agencies want after your new marketing campaigns begin, Carr says. “We want to see what happens right away with the till, because, again, what we’re here to do is sell more stuff.”

Keep track of your change in sales. Whether the change is positive, negative or flat, provide the information so the agency can adjust your marketing plan accordingly.

- Company and customer buzz
Many agencies involve every type of employee in a marketing campaign. For example, some of Carr’s restaurant clients have their wait staff collecting email addresses from customers. That’s a change in the customers’ and the employees’ experience, and it will cause a reaction.

Whatever the reactions, pass them along to the agency. The information will help it implement future campaigns.

- Ideas
Typically, an agency is not in your office or in your stores, so it’s not in your environment. You have to be the eyes and ears for the agency.

If there’s an event in your area that could be incorporated into marketing, for instance, pass the idea along. Is your competition doing something that you’re interested in? Send a quick email. Tell the agency about any ideas you have.

“For example, Seattle is putting in this new street car, it’s like a trolley. It’s a big deal for Seattle, it’s nice. It ends up, one of our [restaurant] clients happens to be right toward the end of the line of the proposed street car route. He originally pinged us saying, ‘Hey, did you know they’re putting in a street car, and, you know, we should find out some information about it,’ because he’s in touch with that … [Now,] when the street car makes its first run here next week, it does not only end up right in front of his particular business, but he’s advertising in the street car, he’s on the street car maps, which are all over Seattle, and there’s an offer that once they get off the street car and come and eat at his place … they get a free appetizer. It’s little, but it just started with a ‘Hey, did you know.’ ”

Send Ideas & Concerns
To get into quick contact with your agency, the best way is to send an email.

“I would say email is probably our primary communication tool. Clients say ‘Hey, I was thinking about this. … Take a look at this. … I think we should do this.’ ” Get some interchanges going back and forth. Schedule a conference call. If the conference call goes well, schedule a meeting. If the meeting goes well, implement the strategy and make it happen.

“If you’re driving home and you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic, you look at a billboard for root beer -- and all of a sudden you’re thinking of a great way to sell. The greatest thing you can do with that little flash is call or email me what just happened and say, ‘You know, is there anything we can do with that?’ ”

Listen to Your Agency
Agencies are hired usually because they know more about marketing than their clients – so, listen to your agency’s advice. Many marketers ignore common sense; they have a hard time letting go of favorite tactics.

With one client, “it was one element of their email marketing campaign, where they wanted emails to go out [in a certain way]. Well, we know how to get an email delivered to an inbox. There are certain things you have to do. There are best practices. … [They started] getting bad flags from IPs because they’re sending out these giant images and PDFs … and their opt-out rates would increase every time an email went out. Eventually, we just said we’re done,” says Carr.

“We found it much easier to, rather than fight with a client like that ... just get rid of them and spend that time and resource on somebody who does want to improve.”

Useful links related to this article

Carr Knowledge LLC:
http://www.carrknowledge.com/



See Also:

Comments about this Interview

Dec 18, 2007 - Dave Van Horn of Webwildcatting LLC says:
One more.... We take a HUGE exception to Mr. Karr's statement below, that typically 'your agency is not in your office or in your stores' and say this to you, the client: If your agency isn't, then call us, that is our job.... A great agency loves your business as much as you do. If they don't, fire their butts. They need to be 'living' you. At the same time, their job is to bring objectivity to your world. Fresh ideas born from being in 'touch' with your organization at every level, combined with their wider view of what else is going on out there. Many agencies are 'fashion' houses. Out to bring you fashionable programs. That is bunk. If they aren't there from moment one talking about how they are going to make your competitors lives a living hell, drop the fancy coffee, and the designer mug on the glass top, with the great view, and run. In fact, if they are drinking from a mug they made when you hired them to remind them each day, where the rent comes from.... run, Forrest, run. Once safe. Email us from your blackberry. Create, conquer, adapt or die....you heard it here.



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