Tips for Working with Agencies and Vendors

Do you often work with 3rd-party marketing agencies, consultants and vendors? Here are some tips to help you get the most out of those relationships.

In marketing (whether B2B or B2C), as with many business functions, there is often reliance on third-party resources to help come up with ideas and/or to deliver a solution or result. There are best practices worth considering as one outsources for the first time and/or evolves existing relationships. Outsource needs can vary dramatically across businesses, and some assignments are more complicated and expensive than others; so consider this a set of baseline considerations.

1. Have a well-thought-out vision about what you want to achieve and/or problems you want to solve. And where it makes sense, include your outsourcing partners in the process to develop the strategic plan in support of that vision.
2. Be crystal clear about the assignment you are actually giving them after context is set and/or some initial brainstorming and discussion has occurred. This can help them stay focused on a set of specific objectives, and help you stay on track with what you’re accountable for (i.e. the end game).
3. Once the work begins, create a positive working relationship that allows for open communication, including the ability to challenge and ask tough questions.
4. Be mindful of their workload and competing priorities — don’t treat them like order takers or put them in constant reactive mode just because you are paying them.
• Remember they have other clients and schedules. A great agency will make you believe it is all about you — but that doesn’t mean you should take advantage; be courteous and considerate of what’s happening on their side.
5. Be a good listener when they raise issues or questions that are challenging; respect their knowledge and insights during the process.
6. Address issues or gaps real-time and be direct. Just as with paid staff, you want to discuss barriers as they come up (not let them fester).
7. Proactively keep them up-to-date on changes in the organization that connect to and/or have implications for what they are doing. Like shifts in broader strategies, new insights from the sales team, budget changes, etc.

The point is: Outsourcing for marketing support, brand strategy, campaigns, content, creative design, research, technology, automation, etc. is becoming increasingly common and/or imperative, and a plethora of resources are out there to help almost any type of business. As you engage in these opportunities, think through what it will take for everyone to deliver their best work and drive meaningful outcomes.

~Lydia Vogtner~

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