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4 expectations to establish an effective marketing agency partnership

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Meeting Room

You’ve taken the leap and partnered with an outside marketing firm to help you navigate choppy and treacherous business development waters.

Maybe this is a new relationship for your company or perhaps you have outsourced your marketing before. Regardless, as you get ready to kick-off your marketing efforts, it's crucial to agree in advance on some important relationship expectations.

Agreeing in advance on expectations about meeting schedules, project timing and term definitions is crucial to moving projects forward.

While every agency-client contract is unique, and every partnership is different, you should set clear expectations in the following areas:

Face-to-face meetings.

Face-to-face meetings are important to strong partnerships. Nothing replaces in person communication no matter how convenient the alternatives might be. Depending on your engagement (single project or on-going) you should at a minimum expect in-person kick-off meetings and major milestone meetings.

  • Major project kick-off meetings should be done face-to-face whenever possible, as brainstorming, planning and relationship building, which could determine the success or failure of a project, is best done in person, particularly early in a collaboration.
  • Major milestone meetings should also be done in-person and could include quarterly measurement and major strategic marketing planning sessions and complex creative pitches.
  • Board and stakeholder presentations should always be face-to-face when possible. Showing key stakeholders the strength of your partnership and putting faces to what they might see as budget "expenses" can go a long way toward creating a productive partnership. You and your agency partner need to make arrangements at the start of the relationship to define roles and expectations around attendance at stakeholder events.

What's most important is that you are working with your marketing agency in-person at pre-established, clearly defined times during the relationship.

Remote meetings.

While in-person meetings are always highly engaging, they may not be the best use of time in certain situations. Remote meetings can be great time and money savers. Programs like GoToMeeting allow groups to meet remotely, share computer screens, make presentations and see each other’s visual reactions.

In some instances where long distances make face-to-face meetings a budget issue, more remote meetings might be required. However, as a general rule, remote meetings are best used of for:

  • Weekly status meetings among project and account managers
  • Monthly status meetings
  • Project feedback meetings
  • Minor project kick off meetings and creative presentations
  • Project budget updates

Again, establishing the expectation of weekly and monthly status updates and how they will be handled limits surprises, improves collaboration and keeps all parties on the same page and moving forward.

Review Timing.

In the beginning stages of any agency-client relationship it's essential to establish expectations for project delivery and review timing. During a relationship or even project kick-off meeting, it's mission critical for all parties to understand their respective responsibilities and how they fit within the overall project timeline:

  • Establish clear milestones and deadlines for agency deliverables
  • Clarify the number of client reviews and the required turnaround time for each
  • Define how feedback should be delivered to the agency (electronically, marked up scans, FTP or via online collaboration)
  • Agree in advance on what review delays mean and any charges that could result because of delays or exceeding the maximum number of allowable reviews

No one wants a project to stall or be delayed, but it certainly happens. This is not about being able to place blame; it's about accountability and transparency so that both teams know where they stand and how projects could be impacted.

Final deliverables.

Defining what “delivery” of the project or campaign means at the beginning of a partnership can save some serious headaches down the road. Consider the following:

  • Some agencies require final payment before delivering the final product. Make sure to understand what obligations all parties need to meet to close out a given project.
  • Some agencies retain the rights to the creative work even after it's delivered. In other words, you might receive the final deliverable you paid for but you might not have sole rights or ownership of it.
  • Still others deliver the work, but do not share native files such as graphic design working files. Again, this is critical to iron out early in the relationship as a misunderstanding here could sour an otherwise strong collaboration.

Each agency contract could define "delivered" in a different manner. If the term "deliverable" is not clearly spelled out in your contract with the agency, ask them to clarify what it means. If you see things you don't like, talk about and negotiate contract changes. No one likes confusion and the last thing your agency partner wants is to withhold products from you that you have rightly paid for.

Client-agency relationships are highly complex, just like the individuals involved. Define expectations early. Communicate them clearly. And then hit the ground running.

If you're looking for a marketing agency partner, we'd love to talk. Contact us today.

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