I have worked within in-house teams where they don’t feel that they are getting value from agencies. I have worked for agencies and seen the frustration of not being able to fulfill the task that they set out to achieve because of an imprecise brief. These situations are frustrating for everybody so I wanted to produce something to help. 

Often the client – agency relationship is unhealthy. I do think that this is generally started by the client. The way that many in-house teams write briefs is flawed. I have worked at a company where the in-house team provided loads of information about the company’s financial performance and about brand positioning. There were diagrams and charts and I looked at it and thought “what the hell do you want them to do?” This leads quite nicely on to the first of the five points:

1. Objective – Have an objective that is aligned to your business goals

It sounds obvious but like with the example that I gave there was no outcome. When I came in to see this campaign they had already put £250k into the project, there was a new website and many blogs, a ton of paid media spend – lots of activity; but no one knew what value was being delivered for the company. Too often people will ask for something like a “paid social campaign”. You should pick an outcome that is meaningful to your business – “we are looking for webinar signups as we know webinar attendees have a 25% likelihood of procuring our services” and then ask the agency how best to achieve this goal.

2. Accountability – Make your agency responsible for the output

This is linked to the first point if we are dictating outcomes, rather than processes to be followed, then we can hopefully avoid the reports back that say “this part of the campaign isn’t working”. If part of the campaign isn’t working your agency needs to know that they don’t need your permission to fix it. They are employed for their expertise they should use them to rectify problems. This is another reason why you should only dictate the outcome; trust your agency, as the experts in the field, to devise the most effective process to deliver the desired outcome.

3. Competition – Brief at least two agencies each time a campaign is launched

Some of the biggest wastes I have seen have been from companies that have negotiated an exclusive deal with an agency. I have never seen one of these arrangements working out well for the in-house team. These sort of relationships need to be monitored. Also if you constantly need support in a specific area, might it not make sense to look at hiring someone to that position? My opinion is that very few agencies that have these kind of deals in place continue to provide great service.

4. Price – Do not give your agency a price

People (that work at agencies) often say that this is ridiculous and unworkable. However if you have asked for a specific outcome to be achieved, I first want to know the most effective way to do this. That should have a price. I then want to know how that offer can be built upon in order to deliver the optimum benefit from the campaign. This is how I would structure a campaign and I think that it is reasonable for an agency to brief in that same way too.

If you do give them a price no matter what service is delivered it will always add up to that price. I just don’t think that this way of working ever brings value to the in-house team. The real answer to how much an agency campaign costs is “the highest amount that you can pay”. I don’t believe that this gives value for in-house teams.

5. Refine – Test, measure, refine, repeat

A digital campaign should be something that is constantly amended in order to deliver the required result. Most agencies are good at reporting back performance and for using excuses to suggest why the outcome may be different from that which is expected. I’ve had agencies wait to make adjustments to campaigns as they said “this will be looked at in our monthly review”. I’m sorry but for me that is not good. Digital campaign performance can be judged in real time. Once you feel that you can see patterns emerging you can alter your activities in order to improve performance.

I understand that mistakes can be made and lessons may be learned as the campaign progresses. It is therefore vital that your agency is able to be agile and respond quickly.

I hope that you have found this useful. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any feedback on this article.

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

John is a data driven marketing specialist and website manager who lives in South East London. When he isn't blogging for us he works for NHS Property Services.