What It Takes To Have a Successful Relationship With Your Digital Marketing Agency
Whether you read this in January or July, in 2013 or 2015, these guiding principles are timeless. In order for a client to get maximum results from their relationship with a digital marketing agency it is best to wholeheartedly embrace these principles. These are the principles we live by everyday at Find and Convert.
At the top of my list is collaboration. I don’t just mean cooperation. I mean authentic collaboration. The difference is more than a subtle one. A collaborative relationship between a client and their digital marketing agency results in the agency being treated as an extended member of the client’s team. The client proactively communicates a 360 degree view of their overall marketing strategy. The agency is always in the know about the client’s marketing activities and how they fit into the client’s business goals. There are no major surprises. The agency is not just a vendor, but rather a member of the client’s team.
Sure, budget is very important. A budget that realistically subsidizes the required effort is a pre-requisite. An under-budgeted effort can yield limited results. And, just as important as budget is the allocation of non-monetary resources starting with the client’s internal staff. A digital marketing agency supplements a client’s marketing staff, not substitutes them. A client should have a minimum of one full time marketing director (or equivalent) and preferably at least one full time staff person. Availability of a client’s marketing staff with good planning, communication and project management skills makes a HUGE difference for collaboration with a digital marketing firm to execute successful plans.
Clear definition of goals and expectations must be discussed and agreed upon before a client and digital marketing agency sign a contract for services. A lack of clear expectations is one of the biggest reasons for a failed relationship. Expectations and budget must be aligned. Only when expectations and budget alignment are clearly defined on the front end of an engagement can both parties kick off a business relationship that is well positioned for success.
A client’s digital marketing plan will revolve around content and web assets. The client’s most important web asset is their website. If the website is based on outdated technology that impedes ability to implement SEO best practices, creates a poor user experience or is difficult to update, these hurdles are game stopping. In such a situation, upgrading the web assets must be priority #1! No digital marketing agency on the planet can squeeze water from a rock which is the metaphor for trying to launch a digital marketing plan with poor web assets.
Content Brand Mindset
Current digital marketing practices require producing relevant content that engages customers and influencers. A one-size-fits-all content mindset, or worse yet, not recognizing the importance of creating compelling and relevant content is another game stopper. A client must embrace the importance of becoming a content brand, not just creating branded content.
A business needs certain technology systems to run its daily operations such as financial systems, ERP for manufacturers and CRM for sales operations. Likewise, to execute digital marketing plans certain technologies are a necessity (not a luxury) such as marketing automation software, email distribution software, social media management software and analytics tools to name a few. A client must be willing to license requisite digital marketing technology to execute and measure plans. Absence of technology tools in digital marketing is like asking the accounting department to run their books on paper.
A client with a good product (or service) that is poorly branded is not well positioned to benefit from a digital marketing plan. The client’s brand messaging should be clearly stated and credible with its target customers.
Typically, weekly status meetings are the norm. A weekly meeting covers updates on all digital marketing activities, issues that need attention, content planning, integration with offline marketing activities and next steps for each member of the team on the client side and on the agency side. When clients excessively skip meetings the plan results will suffer, and the relationship will suffer. See Collaboration above.
The role of an agency is both “doing” and “advising.” The advice we offer is grounded in our expertise and our experience serving other clients with similar goals. In general, we expect our clients to heed our advice on major issues pertaining to best practices. Ignoring our advice calls into question the logic for engaging a digital marketing firm in the first place.
Of course we want to get results for our clients! And, I make no apology in saying that it is somewhat self-serving. Getting results for clients wins us more clients. We have a lot of skin in the game. We measure everything with an eye on KPIs and bottom line results. We are very data driven in this regard.
These success factors outline what we look for in a client relationship. Our responsibility is to deliver an honest effort grounded in expertise, through clearly communicated plans, meticulous follow up on execution details and prompt response when called upon. In other words, what we expect from our clients is exactly what we strive to deliver in a two-way street relationship.
Our success in a client relationship is dependent on the success factors outlined here. In that regard, when we engage in a conversation with a prospective client we are conducting a due diligence on them as much as they conduct a due diligence on us. Our client’s success is our success. We strive to position our clients and ourselves for successful digital marketing results….I invite your thoughts and comments below…