Lead Dog Marketing Communications, Selecting the Right Marketing Partner

Let’s face it, selecting the right marketing partner is tough. Choosing the wrong one can cause your organization to fall behind in meeting its annual growth plans. With so much pressure on CMOs and Marketing Directors in today’s complex business environment, it’s no wonder that the selection process becomes arduous and tedious.

To ease the way, here are a few tips to help you on your journey to finding your marketing partner.

Identify Internal Selection Team
Assembling your internal team at the onset will go a long way in helping to select the right agency. Your team doesn’t need to be large, but it should include stakeholders that will potentially be interacting with the agency. Involving these stakeholders will give them “skin in the game,” particularly if any issues arise down the road. Key people to include are CEO/President, CMO/Marketing Director, and Head of Product.

Determine Your Selection Criteria
Once you have your selection team in place, determine how you will evaluate your potential marketing partner. Having a clear understanding of how and what you will be evaluating will help ensure that everyone stays focused on the same criteria. It will also avoid any mixed signals to the prospective agencies. This will also help you define selection criteria and refine your search to only the agencies that are relevant to your needs.

Define Success
Set clear, realistic marketing objectives to identify how you will measure success. Not only will this exercise help you in your selection process, but it will also assist you in your ongoing evaluation process. Having clearly defined marketing objectives will help the agencies you are considering understand how they can best support you as a partner. An example of a clearly defined marketing objective could include “help generate xx% lead growth to assist in driving xx% annual revenue growth.”

Research By Focus Area/Strengths
Not all agencies are created equal. Some agencies focus on PR, some on direct response, some on B2C and some on B2B. Since you have already defined your selection criteria and identified how you define success, you need to ensure the agencies you are considering are capable of accomplishing those objectives. There is nothing worse than going through the selection process only to discover that your new marketing partner doesn’t have the capabilities or experience to meet your goals.

Size Matters
Certain companies only want to work with larger, established agencies. They want large, specialized teams working on their accounts. Be mindful–those specialized teams often come with high overhead costs/rates. If agency size isn’t a biggie, then you might want to consider a smaller entity. Smaller boutique-style agencies can typically offer you better rates and a more personalized relationship, without sacrificing services.

Consider the Culture
How you relate to your counterparts at the agency will have a great impact on your own success. If you are detail-orientated, you probably won’t want to work with someone who thrives on chaos. Make sure that as you meet with prospective agencies, that you are also meeting with the agency personnel that will be intricately involved with your account on a daily basis.

Contact References
As you narrow the field to your top agencies, you should secure some references from each. Reach out to references to get their input on what it’s like to work with the agencies you’re considering. Don’t be afraid to inquire about account management, creative, processes and results. The point isn’t to find any skeletons in the closet, but to get a better idea of what it will be like to work with the agency.

Engage and Prosper
True success comes from a long-term partnership. Searching and selecting an agency is a time-consuming process. While most agency contracts run for one year and should be evaluated annually, you should plan on working with them long beyond that. Remember, the first year will include a learning curve. Just as businesses should have a 3-year or 5-year growth plan, so should you as you are going through this process. Remember, you don’t hire employees for the short term, so why would you hire your marketing partner for just one year?

Now, go forth and prosper (with your new marketing partner).

*Updated from a blog I originally wrote for another agency blog.