Where does collaboration begin? For agencies and their clients, this is a critical question.
As a marketing agency in Chester, experience has taught us this: the further upstream you take your collaboration, the more effective agency-client relationships become.
And good relationships are far more likely to deliver excellent results.
So, what do we mean by upstream?
For us, it’s about collaborative planning – aligning the client’s goals and objectives with our own.
Obviously, the next question is, how do we achieve this?
Let’s explore upstream collaboration further.
What’s the ultimate goal of collaboration?
In brand development, the fundamental question we ask is why – what’s the reason for a brand’s existence, its purpose?
We can ask the same question of collaboration, what’s the ultimate goal here?
It should be to deliver the client’s business objectives.
This comes back to a basic principle:
Marketing should be integrated into business objectives, not an add-on.
But hang on, isn’t there a contradiction here? Can you integrate marketing into your business objectives using an external marketing agency?
The answer is YES – if you’re open to collaboration. And we mean collaboration from the outset.
Now it’s time to ask how this arrangement will work?
Where do you begin?
Firstly, this is about perception. How do you see a marketing agency?
Clue: a marketing agency is NOT just another supplier.
To use marketing to help you achieve your business objectives, you need a collaborator.
And where should this collaboration begin?
As far upstream as possible. At a strategic level.
Let’s put it differently, rather than delivering a definitive brief to your chosen agency, first work with them to refine the brief further.
To refine the brief, agency and client need to agree on their shared vision of what success should look like.
You must align your goals and objectives.
This will enable agency and client to work better and achieve better outcomes.
How to align goals and objectives
For an agency to deliver the very best for a client, they need to understand the client’s business inside out.
But this is two-way travel. The client must also understand how the agency works and its overall approach.
This is the basis for onboarding. It applies to both agency and client. Basically, it’s a meeting of cultures, involving people communicating and listening.
This is vital for establishing trust, setting ground rules and exchanging information.
Each side should be open and willing to share details to aid mutual understanding.
All projects have a context. The clearer the agency’s understanding of the client’s overriding objectives, the easier it is for them to see the project’s context.
Context gives clarity. Once we have this, we can agree and establish the following:
- Project objectives
- How the project will progress
- Milestones and deadlines
- Main points of contact
- Resources required
- Reporting and metrics.
From upstream to workstream
Successful teamwork relies on sharing information and being aware of other people’s needs, perspectives and timelines.
This applies to both agencies and clients when they’re working in partnership, beginning at the planning stage but carrying right through for the entirety of the project – the agency interacting and working smoothly with the client’s in-house marketing team.
There are three essential aspects to making this work well:
- Good communication
- Consistent processes
- Practical tools.
Communication, processes and tools
Collaborating closely with a marketing agency is a form of partnership, with an ongoing exchange of ideas, opinions and feedback.
This communication should be open, transparent and as frequent as it needs to be to ensure the project runs smoothly.
Consequently, you must establish practical systems and tools to make this work. These systems are vital for keeping collaboration on track, maintaining a sense of openness and measuring progress.
There’s no prescribed way of collaborating, but you should consider the following:
- Communication channels – think beyond email and use a dedicated shared, collaborative project management platform
- Points of contact – who is talking to whom and when, and how this impacts decision-making
- Agreed milestones – how you agree when various project stages are complete
- Sign-off – establishing who’s responsible
- Monitoring and measuring – shared access to metrics that will measure the progress and success of the project.
It’s also imperative to revisit your shared strategic goals routinely and to be willing to adjust them in response to changes.
Projects are incremental. Keep measuring and reviewing as you go.
Building close collaborative relationships
What differentiates one marketing agency from another?
It’s not simply the quality of work, or even the price they charge.
It’s the relationships they build.
Based in Chester, we’re a well-established marketing agency. We think collaborative planning is a key ingredient in building these relationships.
To find out more about us and how we work, please get in touch.