As a CMO, you’ll likely work with a variety of agencies — from brand and advertising to public relations and digital. Each of these relationships has the potential to be a true partnership that strengthens your work and business. But even with this understanding, these partnerships can still experience their fair share of challenges — often making them less efficient and effective. Here are five ways to help you and your agencies maintain a productive collaboration — and ensure that your investments in brand and marketing garner the best possible results.
1. Clarity is key
When joining forces with an agency for a new initiative, it’s important that all parties are on the same page. To make sure your agency fully understands what you’re expecting, start by thoroughly reviewing their scope of work. This is your chance to communicate your priorities and business goals to the team responsible for making them a reality. If the agency outlines a single round of revisions, but you know you’ll feel more comfortable with an additional opportunity to provide feedback, ask for it. If your agency says they’ll provide website writing guidance, but you’d prefer that their team actually rewrite the majority of your site — this is the moment to adjust the scope and make sure everyone is aligned.
Once you’ve agreed upon the scope, every project should start with a kick-off meeting. Typically led by the agency, the meeting works as a powerful onboarding moment, unifying you and your agency around a shared vision. Here, you’ll discuss how to achieve that vision together — by defining objectives, planning immediate next steps, identifying milestones, and addressing potential concerns. This time is not only necessary to establish a clear road map, it also helps build collaboration that will be valuable throughout the process.
2. Time is of the essence
Clear timelines are key to planning strong strategies. Meeting those timelines is key to executing strong strategies. While you must hold your agency accountable for due dates, it’s equally important that you hold your own team to the same standard. Because when a project starts and stops, time is wasted and momentum lost. To ensure the projects stay on schedule, consolidate your team’s comments and provide feedback by the deadlines established with your agency. And if you anticipate a missed deadline, flag it as early as possible for the agency. By taking proactive action, you can avoid hours lost and budget burned.
3. Shades of gray are good
As a CMO, you know there’s not one “right” answer in your work. But for those more immersed in the black-and-white worlds of finance, operations, and technology, the many shades of gray are exactly what can make marketing so uncomfortable. Because while strategy, messaging, and creative deliverables are rooted in research, they’re ultimately still subjective. As the marketing authority in your organization, it’s important to remind your non-marketing colleagues that getting complete consensus on an agency’s work is often next to impossible. By educating your colleagues that nuances, diverse opinions, and gray areas are par for the course, you’ll be better prepared to secure approvals and advance the agency’s work.
4. Clear lanes to keep things moving
As a CMO, you’re constantly dealing with pressure from the rest of your C-suite. And while these CFOs, CTOs, and CEOs bring valuable perspective to your work, they can also inadvertently overstep their bounds and areas of expertise. To avoid this, let your agency help you identify (and maybe even communicate) the best moments for the C-suite team to be involved. As the branding and marketing experts, their voice can carry weight — and as outsiders, their guidance may resonate more effectively with your C-suite colleagues. Which means that, through the agency partnership, you can establish lanes that are more likely to endure and stay on track.
5. Your agency is an ally
You’re building a powerful marketing function in your company. But it’s a process that often requires input and approval from others. And at times it can be difficult to get the approval you need to forge ahead. Tap your agency to help you get buy-in from leadership on new initiatives. With an in-depth understanding of your business and strong knowledge in the marketing space, your agency partners can help you build a case for why your next website redesign, advertising campaign, or customer experience initiative will deliver on broader company objectives. Let them be your ally, so you can achieve your goals together.
Strong outcomes start by optimizing your relationship with your agency. And by following these five steps above, you’ll be positioning your agency partnership—and yourself—for success.
About the author
Debbie Kim is Managing Director of Program Management at DeSantis Breindel. She provides strategic planning and project oversight to help clients’ branding and marketing initiatives successfully come to fruition.