Tips on Collaboration: Working Effectively with Marketing Agencies, Consultants and Vendors
Collaboration can be critical for effectiveness in most business functions, regardless of a company’s size.
This post is about working collaboratively with marketing agencies, consultants, and vendors. I myself an independent marketing consultant, but this is written from the point-of-view of my previous life (in corporate marketing departments), where I often hired and worked with outsourced help to get important work done.
In marketing (whether B2B or B2C), as with many business functions, people often rely on third-party resources to help come up with ideas or to deliver a solution or result. There are best practices worth considering as one outsources for the first time 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 baseline.
Best practices for effective collaboration with marketing agency, consulting and vendor partners
Have a well-thought-out vision
Know what you want to achieve or about 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.
- Leverage those that are experts; don’t feel like you have to do all the thinking work yourself. Make them part of the working team in the early stages (as makes sense).
Be crystal clear about the assignment
After context is set and you’ve finished some initial brainstorming and discussion, clarify the exact scope of work.
- This can help them stay focused on specific objectives, and help you stay on track with what you’re accountable for.
Create a positive working relationship
Once the work begins, enable open communication and the ability to challenge and ask tough questions. Also 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 that they have other clients and schedules to stick to; it’s not all about you. A great outsource partner will make you believe it is in fact all about you, but that doesn’t mean you should take advantage. Be courteous and considerate of what’s happening on their side.
Be a good listener
Respect their knowledge and insights when they raise issues or questions that are challenging for you. Trust that they know what they’re doing; don’t micro manage. But at the same time….
- Be a leader and a manager. 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).
Proactively keep them up-to-date
Tune them in to any changes in strategies or other tactics that the might affect the work they are doing.
- For example — shifts in broad company changes, new insights from the sales team, budget changes, or new projects related to the one they’re working on.
Schedule in-person visits
Go to their offices once in a while and have them come to yours.
- This may help deepen the relationship and provide greater insight into each other’s working worlds. Virtual visits are convenient, but not always as effective as in-person quality time.
Consider a post-mortem
Once the work is finished, have a discussion about how everything went and celebrate a project’s completion or success, just as you would with in-house teams.
- You could also give them a formal review and have them give one on you.
To sum up
Outsourcing for things like marketing communications, brand strategy, campaigns, creative design, research, technology, automation, and product launches is becoming increasingly common or imperative. There’s a plethora of resources out there to help almost any type of business. So as you engage in these opportunities, get your ducks in a row and think through what it will take for everyone to deliver their best work and drive meaningful outcomes.
Updated Sept 2022
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