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One of the hardest parts for both sides about a consulting arrangement between a business and an agency is communication. Communication is hard because it takes time, what’s said can be misunderstood, and many people who work digitally would rather not talk on the phone. When I worked at Distilled, we used to say this all the time:
Communication solves all problems
So as a business working with a consultant (or looking to work with one), how do you communicate effectively with your consultant/agency?
It starts at the beginning.
The number one reason that consulting arrangements fail is a lack of communication from either or both sides. The best way to counter the tendency to only communicate on an as-needed basis is to build in consistent weekly meetings into your arrangement.
Weekly meetings don’t have to be long, but they should serve as the time each week where you talk about what has been done in the previous week, what is currently being worked on, and any blockers to the current work. While you likely have consistent email communication happening (you do, don’t do?) that takes care of some of this, I am constantly amazed at how quickly roadblocks can be removed when they are discussed face to face or on the phone.
Takeaway: don’t leave important conversations to email. Catch up consistently on the phone.
Pros are inherently at a disadvantage working with you because they are not there in your office every day to overhear watercooler talk, run into you in the office hallways, or be pulled into last minute meetings.
Therefore, I recommend that you try to include your consultant/agency in important meetings, such as discussing timelines, strategies, and dependencies for getting things done.
Did your CEO just ask you to take on a special project that will need your agency’s help? Involve them in the planning conversations. Are your numbers not going in the right direction? Involve your agency in figuring out why and how to fix it.
Takeaway: don’t inform your agency/consultant retroactively. Involve them in meetings.
You are likely paying an agency or consultant to help you grow because they are an expert and you might not be (or you are, but don’t have the bandwidth to do all the things that need to get done).
Your marketing pro probably isn’t just someone to get things done for you. You are paying them for their experience, so why silo them away from helping form the strategies that your company is executing against to grow your bottom line?
A great marketing agency is more than just another set of hands to do things. They have seen across a lot of verticals and know what it takes to succeed, so let them help you create the right strategies for your business!
Takeaway: ask your pro’s opinion on your strategies.
You need to know what your numbers are doing. You likely have to report your numbers at least monthly, so your agency should have to do this as well.
Hopefully you have access to and frequently look at your numbers, whether in Google Analytics or another reporting tool. But, you should also hold your pro responsible for the metrics that you have tasked them with increasing.
Every month, you should have a meeting (outside of your normal weekly meeting) to talk about the numbers and why they are doing (or not doing) what they should. You can chat through strategies, about how you need to adjust, and any other concerns in this meeting.
Trust me, some agencies/consultants hate monthly reporting. I (John) personally hate it, but over time have come to really value it because it lets everyone get on the same page, celebrate wins, and talk about what’s important moving forward.
Takeaway: have a monthly meeting outside of your normal weekly catchups to discuss metrics.
Finally, let your agency/pro meet your boss. Your boss (hopefully) is your biggest advocate and enabler, helping remove roadblocks from your and your team’s path to success.
By introducing your agency or pro to your boss, they can as well begin building a rapport that helps you get things done by advocating for budget, explaining why something is being done and the strategy behind it, and much more. I have found numerous times working with clients just how helpful it is more for me to know my point of contact’s boss so that I can make sure that we are reporting in the right way and that they are seeing value from the budget they are spending to retain me.
If you like your agency and want to keep them around (and get more budget to expand the project), having them meet your boss and build rapport is a great way to start this process.
Communication is hard. Communicating with your marketing agency is hard because they are not in your office and involved in every meeting and hallway conversation.
Hopefully the above five tips have given you some ideas for how to make communication easier and projects more successful!
I’d love to hear how you have solved the agency/business communication conundrum as well!
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