Marketing shouldn’t work in a silo in any company, but in many cases this is exactly what happens. Unfortunately, this problem can be exacerbated if that marketing department is an outsourced agency.
As the MD of a marketing agency, I’ve had my share of client and team interactions. Coming from the perspective of both a team member - before I was promoted - as well as a team manager, and now as MD, I’ve had the opportunity to witness and learn a lot about being part of an outsourced marketing firm working with in-house marketing departments. I’m happy to share a few of my insights here with you.
Before we get into the practical tips, it’s important to remember that we are offering expertise to our clients on the best way to market their brands - we’re not marketing robots by any means. We’re people working with other people toward a common goal.
The following tips are my take on how to manage your outsourced marketing team:
1) Communicate thoroughly and often
Like any relationship, communication is key to creating and maintaining trust. It can be difficult to be in contact and in the loop when you are sitting on one side of town and your agency is on the other, however, this problem is mitigated by technology. Depending on what you, as the client, prefers and what works for you both, you could arrange to chat via email, Skype or Skype call, telephone or even via Whatsapp – all of these methods are easy and quick to use. Communicating, no matter how often in a day puts you both at ease and makes the external marketer’s job easier.
2) Keep them in the loop about what’s happening in your business
Being apart from your agency means they’ll miss out on the important day-to-day happenings that can affect your marketing strategy. By helping your agency to understand and know exactly what is going on in your industry, with your competitors and within your business itself assists your agency when it comes to solving business problems and identifying priorities. This should also be a priority of theirs, but remember they are managing several companies in different industries and any insider knowledge you can share will give them the edge with creating an innovative strategy.
3) Remember the human element
As I mentioned before, we are all people working together toward a common goal. It is extremely important to find the right match between client and marketing team. Now, I am not talking about turning them into best friends, what I mean is that there must be some kind of common ground: the human element. Ensuring that your team gets along with client is a surefire way to ensure that communication is thorough, often and understood. Your team will naturally then want to make your client’s business their business too.
4) You both need to be transparent
Just communicating and being transparent are two different things. Being transparent means telling your marketing partner everything. This especially applies for your marketing agency: if they aren’t going to make a deadline, they should say so, and explain why. If a supplier has let either of you down, say so and explain how you’re going to fix it. If you’re running late, say so and explain yourself. Transparency is the difference between trying to catch your own tail and actually getting down to business. Things are going to go wrong, people are going to run late, accidents will happen but own up and then fix it up. Conflict also isn’t always negative: sometimes, a misunderstanding prevents complacency from creeping in. It's ok to say you are unhappy about the service you are getting and it's ok for your agency to say if deadlines are unreasonable or briefs unclear. But have the discussions as and when they happen, work out a solution and move on.
5) Time management
Time management is one of the most important aspects to managing a team of an external marketing firm. Time wasted is money wasted, for your marketing firm and you too. Your agency needs to be accountable for their time ensuring they stay on top of tasks as well as billing. Project plans and timelines adhered to by both agency and client are a great way to keep everyone on track and ensure that both parties stick to time commitments. Tracking time also assists you to determine where resources are lacking and where time is being wasted, thereby increasing performance.
These are of course just five of the fundamentals to managing an external marketing team. In summary, be accessible, be open, be honest and forthcoming with information and most importantly communicate, communicate, communicate. After all this is a team effort and both parties are invested in and working toward the same goal… Success! .
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