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The 5-Step Guide to Agency Partnerships

Over the years, we have formed relationships and partnerships with an array of businesses, many of whom are just like yours. From the successes, failures, and blurred lines, we have taken away some insights which we feel can help companies make an educated decision when selecting a digital partner. Whether you are entering digital for the first time, looking to expand your existing presence, or are looking for a new partner after being burned, you will require a process to help you know where to look and when to leap.

STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR BUSINESS GOALS

Before even considering an agency partnership, your business needs to have a firm grasp on your desired growth plan. With blood-thirsty competitors behind you and agency sharks in the water below, it is crucial that you keep your eye on the prize. What is your bottom-line? What is your target cost-per-lead? How are you planning to balance top-of-funnel marketing and lead generation?

“If you don’t know where you are, you won’t be able to see where you are going.”
– Assorted Instagram Bloggers / Sailors in Storms

When moving from Point A (here and now) to B (reaching your business goals), it is critical to realize that there are often multiple paths that one can tread. This means that setting balanced goals which will give your partnering agency enough wiggle room to utilize their expertise without relinquishing the reigns is a balancing act. Achieving goals that are not “too broad” or “too limiting”, but “just right”, will be crucial in both the success of your partnership and how your agency’s efforts will correlate back to your business goals.

Goldilocks & The Three Agencies

From an SEO perspective, here is a common scenario many agencies face:

“We would like to increase our sessions from organic sources.”

  • Too Broad! Increasing the number of sessions in this case does not necessarily mean an increase in users who have purchase intent.

“We would like to increase our sessions from 500 per month to 1000 per month within three months. User session duration, average page visits, and bounce rate must not be compromised. The increase should primarily come from our services page.”

  • Too specific! While it would be amazing for an agency to double web visits, while maintaining user quality, and ensure traffic is generated to the most ideal page – this is a narrow and rigid goal, with an unreasonably short turnaround.

“We would like our number of organic users to improve year-over-year each month. Our goal is to double our number of monthly sessions within the next twelve months. We would like to see the number of leads increase close to same rate as the number of sessions”

  • Just right! This goal gives the agency some clear targets to reach for. It accounts for the fact that an increase in traffic cannot always be of perfect quality, but holds the agency accountable for an increase of sessions also boosting the number of leads. It also provides flexibility in the recommendations and budgets the agency can propose, allowing for the goal to become more realistic.

STEP 2: UNDERSTAND HOW AN AGENCY CAN HELP

It’s settled: You are looking to improve your company’s digital presence, have identified areas for improvement, and have decided on some targets you would like to reach. But, where in the mix of your in-house team will your new agency partner fit in? Here are some considerations:

  • Staff Knowledge – Whether your business is local or international, the knowledge within your in-house team is not infinite.
  • Available Time – The bandwidth of your staff is not stagnant, and when your business picks up, something always falls to the wayside.
  • Marketing Scope – Since both the market and your business are constantly changing, your business must stay agile and up to date with trends.

A great step to take before diving into a partnership is to perform gap analysis. Think about where your business is today, and where you would like to be in six months, a year, and so on. What tools, resources, and labour does your business require to build the bridge that will beat your gap. Keep in mind, sometimes your business may have the needed tools, resources, and labor, but may need a second party to look over the blueprint and advise on strategy. No matter your needs, the agency you choose should work in cohesion with the infrastructure you already have in place – not attempt to build a new bridge or replace what is already present.

“A critical component of any successful agency-client partnership is an understanding of the complimentary roles on each side. Agencies augment and support the underlying business strategy for their clients. Both teams must work to find a rhythm of communication and accountability for it to work.”
– Darcy McGilvery, Director of Client Services

STEP 3: RESEARCH POTENTIAL PARTNERS

Choosing the right digital agency partner is a lot like choosing which person committed a crime in a police lineup. Before you were in the heat of the decision, it seemed like it would be obvious how to separate the good from the bad. But, once you have five seemingly identical agencies lined up in front of you, it will become nearly impossible to understand which ones will rob you when you are not looking, and who will help your business cross the street to a world of new leads. Here are some tools we suggest you use, to separate the needles from the diamonds in the haystack:

  • Agency Presence – Take a look at the agency’s social media pages and website: Are they effective? Do they appear credible? Often times, if a digital agency is not taking the time or pride in their own business, that will reflect directly on the effort and care they put into yours.
  • Agency Advocates – Every agency will have reasons why they should be selected to be part of your team, but in a world where content is king, word-of-mouth is queen. What do their clients say about their business, specifically when unfiltered? Are any large corporates such as Google, Facebook, or WordPress advocating for the firm’s abilities?
  • Roster & Results – If you were an athlete looking for a new coach to train under, what would you look for? First of all, the quality of the players – no matter the league, is the agency developing leading scorers and top-notch goalies? Secondly, does the coach have experience training a player like you, or have they only worked with a certain type of athlete?

The Digital Status Quo: Polarizing Personalities

At Snaptech, we try our best not to fit people into boxes. But, as a business looking to choose your agency partner, you should probably be aware of some of the most common characters in the game:

  1. Those with Huge Networks – Many agencies turn out fast and predictable marketing efforts, for face-in-the-crowd clients. These have standard pricing, lackluster and predictable results, and little personalized efforts.
  2. Those with the Creative Brain – Often from a design background, these agencies are fueled by young minds who will take a unique approach to marketing your business. These often stand in the larger the risk, larger the reward
  3. Those with the Boutique Mindset – These agencies charge slightly more money, but bear the experience and knowledge needed to drive data-fueled decisions personalized to your business goals.

 

STEP 4: TEST THE WATERS

After looking at possible agencies, you have found one whose values, approach, and reputation align with your expectations. Much like every other business decision, all is never exactly as it seems. Trust us, there are plenty of amazing agencies, with impeccable websites, who know exactly the words to whisper in a company’s ear to make them melt – after all, salesmen are a pivotal a member of any team.

When interviewing possible employees, many companies will give them a task or assignment to prove their knowledge and capabilities. This idea can be applied when also interviewing your agency partner – asking them for a small, one-off paid task to show their effectiveness. No matter the task, keep in mind that the result is not the only factor to consider:

  • Organization – Did the business carefully consider exactly which information and permissions they would need from you to streamline the process?
  • Communication – During the task, did the agency keep you updated on progress? Did they ask for clarity, or make assumptions?
  • Process – Is it clear how the agency approached the task? Have they utilized the expert tools and knowledge you were expecting?

“Investment in digital marketing can take a business to the next level by acquiring new customers and increasing brand awareness. However, since every business’s digital needs are different, a customized strategy should be developed that meets the business goals and long-term objectives.”
– Nancy Ross, Internet Marketing Specialist

The Digital Assessment

When we initially enter discussions with a potential customer, there are two common situations that arise. The first is that many businesses have had negative experiences with agencies in the past or that they are apprehensive about trusting an agency for the first time. Another common occurrence is that a business is having trouble defining their goals, or understanding if their targets are realistic. Snaptech’s solution to both issue’s (and many others) are our digital assessments.

Our digital assessments are a flexible and in-depth process where we analyze how your business and the world of digital marketing interact. The insights gained from this assessment aren’t geared towards “selling you on us”, but merely to help you understand what is practical and possible for your business within the current marketing space.

Digital Assessments include topics such as the following:

  1. Goal Viability
  2. Target and Realized Audiences
  3. Customer Acquisition Cost
  4. Competitor Analysis
  5. Website Usability & Conversion Optimization
  6. Tracking & Back-End Issues
  7. Marketing Opportunities
  8. Recommended Budget and Deliverables

STEP 5: SET THE FOUNDATION FOR AN EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIP

So, you have made your decision, and after thoughtful deliberation have chosen which agency to move forward with.

Two months have gone by.

You have paid a substantial investment.

Business has not changed.

More often than not, a red, opaque curtain separates a business from their digital agency. On one side is your business, tossing briefcases of money over the curtain. On the other side is the agency, tossing nameless emails and dropped phone calls back over your way. This set-up is one of the fundamental issues with so many of the business relationships we see today.

“There are so many moving pieces to their business, market and customers, that it is really difficult for business owners and management to connect all the dots and make the right decisions. For a lot of businesses, a data-based approach is a much better alternative to the pitfalls of having a haphazard and repetitive trial and error approach that typically isn’t executed effectively from the start and doesn’t yield the results they are seeking.”
– Brian Buckley, Business Analyst

Imagine a world where your business is:

  • Updated on major changes and results (positive or negative) several times per month.
  • Provided with a monthly report describing shifts and outcomes of your digital presence.
  • Given insights into small wins and customer trends.
  • Made aware of new and ground-breaking strategies which are relevant to your campaigns.

It is critical that you help shape the tone for a transparent and effective relationship with your agency. Also, bear in mind that if they are not taking the necessary steps to set up this communication with you, they may not be the right partner for you. This does not mean that you must hold hands with your agency and make every decision together, but merely dropping the curtain to understand what is on both sides. Take parenting for example – If you and your agency are raising a business together, you don’t both always have to go to the grocery store or pick up the kids from school, but it is crucial that both occur and that you know who is taking on what and when.

“A good rule of thumb is to simply treat your agency as an extension of your internal marketing department. It’s important to understand that your agency can’t make the most impactful decisions unless they have a full picture of your goals and other internal marketing initiatives. At the same time, your agency should be forthcoming with the performance of the campaign and happy to discuss results in an honest an open way so that decisions can be made for the greater good of your business.”
– Coralie Wood, Account Director, Digital Marketing Services.

IT’S TIME TO LEAP

Now that you have all the tools you need to fuel your digital partnership, it is time to make your decision. In a changing industry where today’s king may be yesterday’s news, the time to act is now.