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So You Just Hired an Agency: Here's How to Start Off on the Right Foot

agency-partner-1So, you’ve been wooed and won over by an agency. The agency has an enviable creative team. Its execution is flawless. And you generally like the people it employs. 

Everything in the sales process points to the fact that your marketing budget is in the right hands ... but you've been down this road before. You've seen that rose-colored future, only to be disappointed at a slow start, lots of misunderstanding, and a lack of results for your quarterly meeting.

You want to show your entire company that you made the right decision in hiring this agency. When it gets to be October, and it’s time to plan your 2015 marketing budget, another agency review is the last thing you want to include on your company's to-do list. 

To get a fast start and an even quicker return on your investment, here are a few things you need to do right from the get-go.

1) Give Them the Keys to the Castle

If your agency is creating content -- whether for blog posts, offers, or infographics -- then you will want them to have access to your internal experts. Create a list of everyone on your team who can provide inside knowledge on your industry. This will reduce the back-and-forth between you and your agency contact, and it will empower your partner to take advantage of your organization's knowledge.

You can also be proactive about providing the agency with a list of your competitors and industry influencers. The quicker they can become experts, the faster they can begin creating marketing campaigns that actually address your position in the market and any issues with your image and positioning.

2) Make the Agency Your Customer

Every company is different, and you can’t expect your agency to understand your complex sales funnel or the unique needs of your customers and prospects right away.

Provide the agency with your buyer personas, or if you haven’t created them yet, outline the types of customers you deal with. Detail their wants, needs, and challenges. The agency can form a plan to gather more information on your core customers or do research to understand this market better.  

You should also give the agency the opportunity to go through your sales process. Have your key contacts at the agency talk with Sales, give them a product demo, or send them a few samples of your product. Make them a customer. Then, invite them into your company for a day or two to experience your view of the world.

A partnership requires more than just signed document. You are your product or service’s evangelist. Turn your agency’s employees into this as well -- by walking them through your sales process, not by paying an invoice.

3) Organize Your Marketing Efforts

You hired the agency because you wanted something different. You wanted different results. 

But if you haven’t reviewed your past marketing efforts, then you won’t know what to do differently. Evaluate your social media, search, email, and content creation efforts from the past few years. What worked? What failed to provide a return?

Detail your current visitor-to-lead and lead-to-customer conversion rates. Review your cost to acquire a new customer and the average lifetime value of that customer. What are your goals for these numbers? What type of increase will actually make a difference in your monthly, quarterly, or annual reporting?

You need to be clear about what marketing goals will lead to business goals. Otherwise, your agency could focus on the wrong results -- and that won’t help your relationship or your company.

4) Outline Your Processes

You want brilliant creative ideas that drive business results and are delivered on time and under budget. This is no easy feat, which is why you hired an agency. But this is a collaboration -- not an experiment in outsourcing.

You are the protector of your brand the defender of your audience, and that gives you and your colleagues every right to review, request changes, and turn down ideas. That doesn’t give you the right to ignore timelines for reviews and approvals or request an outrageous number of revisions.

Establish upfront how you want to review the work and the type of deadlines you can work under. Communicate who needs to review what and who gives ultimate approval. If your legal team needs to be involved, then help the agency understand why.

You and your agency both have the same goals. You just need open and clear communication and a few set expectations to prevent the relationship from turning sour.

5) Provide the Tools

If you've done any marketing in the past, you probably have used a hodgepodge of tools and hacks to execute on your campaigns. Do you use a CRM, CMS, or email marketing provider? Do you use analytics, social media, survey tools, ecommerce platforms, or a landing page builder? Do you have an all-in-one marketing platform?

Part of your agency's job is to review all these tools and learn how they have been used in the past. If the agency understands more about your process for creating marketing, then it can either take over the administration of these accounts or simplify your efforts by using one integrated platform. And having a fresh set of eyes on your information could just reveal some important insights.  

Create a master list of all your tools and provide access to your agency contacts. Remember: They are a part of your team. 

6) Set Communication Expectations

A major concern for most marketers dealing with a new agency is communication. Maybe your old agency was non-existent when it came to updates, and that's why you ended the partnership. Or maybe you've dealt with marketing partners that want to meet in-person about every small change or tweak. Communication -- at the right pace and in the right format -- is key to creating credibility. 

If the agency doesn't currently use a project management like Trello or Basecamp, then you need to implement one. Emailing back and forth PDFs, images, and content is ineffective -- things can get sent to spam or get lost in the barrage of daily messages. You shouldn't spend you time looking for files or figuring out when things will be delivered.

Setting up a collaboration system that allows your team and the agency's team to share files, communicate feedback, and outline tasks and deadlines will ensure that everyone is on the same page. This also helps you to see what the agency is working on and how projects are progressing, meaning there's one less thing you need to worry about each day. 

Remember: It’s Just the Beginning

The beginning of a relationship can be a bit tricky, but just keep in mind that both parties just want to find out as quickly as possible if this is the right fit. By giving your new agency the tools and information it needs and learning a few lessons on trust and collaboration, you’ll find a match that is meant to last.

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