Can't we all just get along? For decades, advertising and marketing agencies and their clients, B2B and B2C marketers, have shared a blissful marriage. Now we seem to have arrived at the proverbial Seven Year Itch. Both agencies and marketers are pointing the finger at one another in a series of troubling trends. What's behind this apparent separation-in-progress, and can we do anything about it before we end up in Divorce Court?
How do we know that the agency-marketer marriage is on the rocks? They both say so. The 2015 RSW/US New Year Outlook surveyed senior-level Marketers and Marketing Agency Executives and found disturbing disconnects on every level of engagement.
Clearly there are some ugly disagreements going on, but what can we do to revive agency-marketer relationships? Like most marriages, this boils down to understanding needs and desires and working on communications. Here are some suggestions:
First, let's get real about the value of most marketing agencies. They do what you can't. They have creative teams that blow away your product marketing content and graphics. This is what they live and breathe, so why try to reinvent the wheel?
You can't. They also understand digital marketing, but where they may fail is in understanding how to apply it to your campaigns. So help them. Sit down with them and plan the strategy, don't just expect them to pitch it to you. Work together on goals and KPIs and figure out how to leverage creative to drive business objectives. Don't just expect them to deliver that in a vacuum. Do what you can to provide stability to the relationship. If senior leadership moves around a lot, do what you can to provide succession planning and continuity. Realize that without effective communications, Marketing is bound to fail. If Marketing fails, business development fails, and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Now it's your turn. Marketers complain that you're not adding enough value. Do you know what their goals are? Have you taken a hard look at your processes and capabilities to deliver on those goals? For example, if your client wants ROI from your ad campaign, you need to think about lead generation and conversion to customers. You can't just distribute ads on media and expect to get there. And what about building relationships with leads and customers? You can't just do that with one-way ad campaigns, no matter how viral they may be.
Consider adding inbound marketing and content marketing to your portfolio. If you don't have the staff or technology to do that, consider partnering with an inbound or content marketing agency. Get out of your silo and start farming leads and delivering ROI. That's what your customers want.
Oh, and don't forget about practicing what you preach. You can't expect your clients to maintain a consistent team and point of contact if you fail to do the same!
As marriages mature, we all get tired and restless. More often than not, we're just not happy with ourselves and we take it out on our Partners. I think this is what's happening between Marketers and Agencies. We've forgotten how to communicate, and we have gotten lazy about nurturing our own relationships. Is it really better to abandon ship and start over? In a few months or years, won't you be back where you are now? Marriage Counselors would tell you to start talking again. Share your goals and expectations. Find room for compromise and strive to make the other party happy again. You'll be glad you did.