5 Tips for Avoiding Marketing Mistakes When Partnering With an Outsourced Marketing Agency
The outsourced marketing waters are deep, dark, and teeming with agencies. Before you cast your line out, you should be sure you’ve brought the right bait to attract the right catch. You need solutions and we want to help. So check out our list of 5 tips for avoiding marketing mistakes so you can reel in the best agency to partner with your business.
What is an outsourced marketing agency?
Marketing is essential for small businesses, and many need support in this arena. Outsourced marketing agencies support a wide range of functions, from website design changes and SEO to social media management, print materials, and more. Simply put, these agencies strategize solutions and execute tasks without working directly for the businesses that hire them. With this working definition in-hand, let’s navigate 5 tips for avoiding marketing mistakes when partnering with an outsourcing marketing agency.
Tip #1: Don’t assume that we know what drives your brand.
Allow for plenty of discovery time from the onset of the working relationship. Their team needs to understand the “why” that drives force for your brand. They need to understand your vision, values, position, and promise in order to strategize effectively and move your project forward. It’s a courtship of sorts that ensures the end-game is clear, achievable, and shared on all fronts.
In the past, we occasionally found ourselves in muddy water, needing to clarify a client’s brand identity after we’d paddled pretty hard and far upstream. We can avoid unexpected obstacles now that we use a strategic planning tool to identify potential issues in advance. QUAD Model is our baby. It’s a dependable, straightforward, and keeps our team and our clients on the same page throughout the course of a project. Learn about how we use QUAD Model to align your “fifty thousand-foot view” with action items over the course of ninety days.
Tip #2: “Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself.”
Creative control can easily get out of hand. It’s a funny thing to say, given the white-knuckled grip that some companies like to keep on it, but it’s true. Sure, handing over creative control of your social media or deliverables or–gasp!–your brand identity might feel scary. But think about how much scarier (and counterintuitive, and expensive) it is to outsource creatives and specialists to complete tasks for you and then insist on doing them yourself!
When you find an agency that fits your needs and you have a solid strategic plan, take your hands off the wheel. Let your team guide the ship. We’re not telling you to abandon the co-creative, collaborative process; it’s vital! We’re just urging you to avoid pixel-pushing over your team’s shoulders.
Creative control is about trust. Creative marketing teams work better when they have the freedom to explore new directions and test new ideas. When you trust your creative team, you allow their collective expertise and imagination to propel your brand to new heights.
Tip #3: Maintain sensible expectations of your external team.
Our first tip was to never assume that we know what drives your brand. Then we addressed the all-too-important trust factor. Now, we need to talk about recognizing that outsourcing nixes the internal knowledge and communication factors that bolster a project from conceptual phase through completion. It’s part of the job of an internal team to “know” their business; non-internal teams are at a disadvantage by default, so maintain sensible expectations.
We already mentioned that having a discovery session at the onset of a project helps clarify objectives, outline goals, and establish proper workflows. Workflows have timeline expectations; thoroughly discuss these timelines before committing to delivery and allow your outsourced marketing team to weigh in on how long deliverables could or should take. Also, as communicating goes, avoid email threads and text conversations because critical information is easily and often lost in translation through these conduits. A quick phone call is all you need to remedy any uncertainties.
Working off of a creative brief will ensure that you cover the essential items for your project. And Google Docs is a great tool to promote collaboration, ask questions, and clarify processes along the way. Finally, make it easy on everyone by committing to a project management tool. Our current favorite is Wrike. With Wrike, we’re able to provide live update links to our clients so they can view the work that’s underway and the hourly rate for a given period of time.
Communicate until you’re certain everyone is on the same page. Keep things running smoothly and forward.
Tip #4: Regularly review designs and give useful feedback.
I remember a project I worked on early in my career, where I walked away from a meeting thinking I knew exactly what my client wanted. Because I totally “got it,” I dived headlong into the project and worked tirelessly to build a new website. The assumptions I made as I worked went unchecked, which sent me deeper into Web Development Land. After a time, the client checked in to review the initial designs. I delivered something even better: a full-blown website! Only then did I discover that I’d built a site that was vastly different from what my client wanted, and I spent the following days scrambling to right a sinking ship. It was a total disaster.
A decade has passed since that project needing rescuing, and I’ve learned a lot since. Now part of a creative team, we safely chart the course of each project with a mockup tool that allows us to co-design and work through smaller approvals from our clients. It’s all about quick iterations, micro feedback, and ensuring that everyone is happy. Point being, low-fidelity designs are easier to implement and allow for quick jumps forward when concepting. These could be whiteboard scribbles, paper prototypes, hand sketches, or black and white wireframes. Once everyone is on board, move to a more sophisticated, high-fidelity design concepts.
Moral of the story: don’t learn the hard way that small steps forward are less stressful and far cheaper than giant steps back.
And finally, Tip #5: Trust the process.
Outsourcing your marketing functions can be a big decision, but the benefits are huge when the process is handled appropriately. For one, you definitely reduce overhead by outsourcing. For another, outsourcing tends to increase the speed of execution of your branding efforts.
But before the benefits can be seen, “priorities” have to be reigned in. The problem here is similar to the one created by keeping a white-knuckled grip on creative control. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. So give your new marketing team a clear hierarchy of tasks and empower them to knock out key items, even during a time crunch.
Whether outsourcing one or several functions, begin with a small, stand-alone task. Start with something fairly straightforward that’s not made up of several moving parts. Avoid diving right into a complex web development project with a new agency; you might find that the learning curve is steep, costly, and exhausting. Try a simple collateral piece or a new business card design instead. The slower pace of a small project doesn’t signify that it’s floundering. Give it some time and you’ll start to feel comfortable with your external team. And when you do, broaden the scope of projects you tackle together.
Avoiding marketing mistakes isn’t always easy, but it is possible. You have to trust the creative process. Do your best to keep things in check and be an active participant in your forward progress. At the end of the day, partnering with an outsourced marketing agency will drive new growth and uncover and promote new opportunities for your business.