Successful Marketing Strategies Include Tapping into an Agency for Expertise
Marketing professionals are under a lot of pressure to deliver results for their organizations. This may or may not come as a surprise, but it was a key takeaway after embarking on a marketing research study on how leaders view marketing success at their organizations (learn more in our previous blog). Because of this, organizations are pursuing a wide range of marketing activities in the next year. From social media marketing to online advertising and marketing strategy development, these are necessary endeavors to pursue, but they’re often challenging for internal teams to tackle. Successful marketing strategies often include hiring an agency for that very reason.
70 percent of respondents say they use agencies, and one-third of that group use 2-3 agencies to support their marketing. However, we found that they aren’t being utilized as much as they could be. Only 29 percent say their agency is instrumental in their annual marketing planning, a foundational task for marketing departments.
To combat this, today’s post is going to dive into ways you can use an agency more effectively and efficiently.
Execution Is Important but not Everything
Our research found the most common way organizations use agencies is by having them act as additional hands to get the work out the door — in other words, for project execution. Most commonly, the organization tackles things like strategy, planning and goals, but the agency helps get it all done. While this is often easy to implement, it’s not always an efficient or effective use of a marketing budget. That’s because organizations leveraging agencies this way aren’t likely taking advantage of the experiences and tools their hired agency has. Still, there are benefits when you hire an agency to help with execution, such as:
- Agencies can take responsibilities off your plate.
- They can get things done more efficiently.
- They have more resources and tools.
- Agencies can save you money because they have relationships with vendors.
- You can quickly scale demanding projects.
When onboarding an outside agency to handle project execution, it’s vitally important to start with a strategy-first mindset and by making sure brand guidelines and objectives are clearly understood by everyone on the team. Skipping this step can result in misalignment. And that can lead to costly revisions and rework down the road.
Secondly, it’s crucial to establish a regular communications cadence with your agency to ensure that all tools, processes, expectations, and roles and responsibilities are articulated from the get-go.
The most important step is that the agency you hire should be aligned with your overall marketing strategy and how a particular campaign they are helping to execute is part of it. This begins on day one — the time when the “why” behind the strategy is outlined. Don’t just think about the end result. Positioning, messaging and audience segmentation are all important pieces of the puzzle, too.
Measurement Is the Key to Success
When an organization hires an agency, they have a new opportunity to work with a partner that understands and measures activities related to ROI. In most cases, agencies have the people, training and tools to assess marketing efforts more effectively than an organization’s internal team because they’re measuring results in many different situations. They know how, when and where to measure a marketing effort, and the organizations that work with them reap the benefits. For example:
- Because there are fewer workflow limitations, your agency operates at a higher skill set.
- The relationship becomes more synergistic, so you get better results.
- A partner can upskill your team with their input and expertise.
We can’t stress the importance of measured results enough. As we like to say at Avocet: If we can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.
From the very beginning, agencies should have clearly defined KPIs, OKRs, and the processes to monitor and deliver on those metrics (such as EMV, digital impressions, etc.).
Measurement (the what, why and how) is important because strategy doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There needs to be clear-cut goals and objectives and a clearly defined ROI that can be measured. Continuous monitoring, optimization and testing lets us know if we are reaching our audiences and achieving our goals efficiently and effectively. It’s the cornerstone of all strategy.
Planning and outlining tangible KPIs and OKRs is also about reaching the right people at the right time on the right device with the right message. Additionally, you should be measuring if what you’re marketing is the right fit for the customers you’re targeting. From there, agencies can develop approaches that are laser focused with the ability to pivot when needed.
Lean into Agencies for Strategy and Planning
Successful marketing strategies also include utilizing your agency for planning purposes. But less than half of our survey respondents use an agency for strategic guidance, and less than one in three rely on one for annual marketing planning. That means a lot of organizations aren’t getting the most out of their marketing spend. To make sure you don’t fall into that group, you need to ask your agency why you are doing specific marketing activities and how to do them in the best way possible.
Agencies often see more marketing challenges than in-house teams that operate in one context and industry because they’ve worked though various goals, channels and tools. As a result, they have insights on how to do things efficiently and effectively. Working with an agency for strategy and planning has many benefits:
- A partner can help you create a cohesive action plan, outline the steps for execution, and drive outcomes and results.
- It’s easier to connect marketing initiatives to business outcomes with the knowledge integrated agencies bring.
- Integrated agencies take a holistic approach to your marketing which can lead to better results.
- Agencies can help improve workflow between departments so teams are all moving in the same direction.
- Innovation comes easier when all the pieces fit together.
- Agencies bring ideas and expertise to help your brand stand out (and above) from the competition.
In order to bring in an agency that offers this type of support, begin by looking at their case studies to learn the importance they place on strategy. This information will help you interview an agency based on real life experience and the process involved with strategic execution.
Agencies Help You Stay Agile
After conducting the research, three distinct types of marketers emerged: Accomplished Marketers, Anxious Strugglers and Strategy Believers. Regardless of segment, most respondents feel their prospects are making purchasing decisions differently than before the pandemic. Strategy Believers and Anxious Strugglers are more likely to say it’s harder for their organization to find new customers than it was before 2020. Both of these segments worry to some extent that shifts in buyer behavior will create significant challenges for their organizations. Fortunately, an agency’s ability to see these changes across the market can help you stay agile with these changes in consumer behavior.
To learn more about each segments’ behaviors and the opportunities they present, check out our entire executive summary and webinars. And to further ignite your own marketing strategy, check out our podcast.