What Should I Expect?
I had an interesting conversation recently with a very clever leader of a rapidly expanding global start-up. We discussed, among other things, what client’s expectations should be from a marketing agency. I’m guessing many of you have considered the question, “What should I expect from my marketing partner?” And if you haven’t asked it, maybe you should.
Best Case Scenario
I have some strong opinions on what I feel a marketing supplier should provide you. These are formed from over 25 years experience seeing both perspectives being both buyer and supplier. It’s important to strive for the best relationship possible because this should aid in realising the key goal of maximising your potential marketing results.
Whether through a marketing, branding, advertising or communications consultant, agency or firm, it is advisable to hire marketing support that provides you with both strategic direction (big picture thinking) and tactical implementation (actual deployment and execution) capabilities. In my opinion, this isn’t an “either” “or” situation. I think you need both working for you in tandem from the same supplier for the best results. If your consultant is only able to plan and not do, her view of the effort required to actually implement may be skewed. And if you’re working solely with agency “do- bees” then you may well miss the integration and truly strategic opportunities that uplift your efforts to those higher, broader, or longer term in nature. If you use more than one provider there’s the potential to lose continuity and efficiency of effort.
Set Goals and Priorities
Any consultant or agency worth their salt, should spend time with you to understand, document, and benchmark your current situation, then work with you and your team to understand where it is you want to go and set clear, measurable and strategic goals and objectives. Then they should assist you in prioritising them before implementing a single one
Then, and only then, should they work with you to develop an integrated marketing plan and begin implementing its top tactical priorities.
Set Off On a Voyage of Discovery
Throughout the discovery process it’s important to detail all the relevant metrics: # staff, sales, geographies, types of business, # of events held, marketing tools currently in use, how and how often they’re used, budgets, $ spent on advertising, promotion, giveaways, public relations, sponsorship, campaigns, etc. A good consultant will learn what’s been done up until now – identify what’s worked well? What hasn’t? Identify what tools, processes, practices, people, skills are already in place, so that they might be leveraged for better results.
Establish Diverse Objectives To Drive Effective Marketing Activities
A great agency should practice one of my go-to mantras, “Think BIG, start small, scale uP!” They should look at what goals you have the following areas before recommending marketing activities to help accomplish them.
- GROWTH – what are your growth goals over time, by geography, # of staff, # of events, products, services, # of lines of business, margins, % of revenue distribution, through acquisition, etc.
- BRAND – What does your brand convey? What are its key components? How do the visual brand, tagline, key brand messages, definition of the brand promise work together? How are these articulated through every step of the buying cycle and through each medium? How does the brand promise differ externally and internally? What is the brand architecture? Is there a major brand and sub brands? How do they work together? Separately? What are the brand guidelines, How are they communicated? How often will branding be reviewed? Researched? Revised?
- MESSAGING – What do you need to communicate? How does this vary by stakeholder? By product? Service? Geography? Prospect? What should be in the inventory of key messages to communicate what your company does, for who, where, how, and what makes you unique? How will messages change by medium? By product? Service? How do you ensure that all staff, partners, stakeholders remain on message? How much of your messaging is getting through? Where are the gaps?
- CONTENT CREATION – How will you distribute the company messages? Through which tools? What other relevant content is of interest to your key prospects? Who will be charged with the development of this additional content, how often, with what guidelines and what traditional and digital platforms will be used to distribute this content? What format will it take – ebooks? Whitepapers? Speeches? Videos? Articles? Blog posts? Social media updates? Photos? Collateral? Events? Will you need an editorial calendar? To hire content creation staff? To develop guidelines for content creation?
- CUSTOMER PROFILING – Have you developed your typical customer personas? Have you defined the customer buying process? Or priorities? Have you determined which traditional and digital tools your prospects and customers use regularly? At what stage within the buying process? If not, have you plans for any research to identify this information? Have you ensured that this information is reflected in your marketing plan,campaign efforts and choice of marketing channels?
- PUBLIC RELATIONS – What PR activities can you embrace to raise your company profile? Are there opportunities to gain visibility around key members of the team, key accomplishments, initiatives, innovations, milestones? Have you developed opportunities for mainstream media coverage, content creation for industry publications, associations, product/service user groups, etc. to further your overall PR efforts?
- SPONSORSHIPS – Do you want to support key groups within or related to your target customer groups? If so, how, offering what support? What percentage of budget or $ amount? What other guidelines would you require be put around sponsorship efforts?
- ALLIANCES – Do you need to set rules for alliances, do you need more? Fewer? Do you need to determine who makes sense as an alliance partner and why,? Do you need to set shared objectives, details around how co-branding will work with alliance partners? Develop alliance projects, campaigns or other initiatives?
- TACTICAL MARKETING EFFORTS – how do you apply best practice and repeatable processes to create replicable efforts/campaigns? Is there an opportunity to develop “a campaign/event/etc in a box”?
- MARKET RESEARCH – What information needs do you have? Do you need to do more customer profiling, gain insight into prospective markets, measure customer satisfaction, define preferences? Do you need to better understand the competitive market? Pricing sensitivity? Timing? Geographic differences?
- TRACKING, MARKETING, ANALYTICS – What tools, processes, etc. will you put in place to assess the success of marketing activities and who, how will this be monitored, analyzed, and fed back into the decision making process?
- ONGOING STRATEGIC MARKETING PLANNING – Do you need to set goals around how often to review your marketing plans, goals and efforts? Can it be embedded into other strategic discussions and activities? Annual planning efforts, etc?
The Best Marketing Partner is One Who Delivers
Having these broad discussions, at this stage, across as many areas of the marketing landscape as possible will help you to:
- Gain increased understanding of your organisation’s total marketing needs
- Isolate the areas requiring the most attention, effort, and resources
- Identify marketing integration opportunities
- Set key marketing priorities
- Apportion your marketing efforts, budgets, and resources
- Chart a more comprehensive plan for the future
- Set a comprehensive benchmark for your current situation.
The best type of marketing service provider will help you to achieve all of these because a holistic and integrated marketing approach that effectively accomplishes these objectives is exactly what a combination of sound strategic thinking and timely tactical expertise can deliver.
And, at the end of the day, that’s what you want from your marketing partner.
You want them to deliver!