For agencies to be the best possible partners to their clients, there needs to be sustained, open communication at all levels—not only between agency and client but also among key functional areas within each client’s organization. Of course, getting clients to provide access to all of the internal human resources an agency needs to craft and execute the most effective campaigns can be difficult.
Aside from questions about who owns the decision-making process, there are often other issues at play among the various teams that can lead to disunity, or worse, conflict between stakeholders that could derail the agency’s hard work. Fortunately, agency leaders and professionals can avoid such problems if they proactively shape relationships with clients by gaining access to all of the client’s internal resources they will need to properly execute the campaign.
To learn how to more effectively integrate the activities, insights and input of team members from across a client’s functional areas into a marketing strategy that will generate the best results, check out the tips from Forbes Agency Council members below.
1. Require Points Of Contact From Each Function
Require points of contact from each function at the start of an agreement. We actually put spots in our contract for clients to include the POCs for different areas of their business so that we know from the start who needs to be in the know and who we can get information from. So many companies are so siloed that we see it as our role as the agency to bring those silos together and ensure they are aligned. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
2. Facilitate Alignment Around All Functions’ Shared Goals
Working effectively with cross-functional client teams requires transparency, alignment and clear communication. The agency should facilitate transparency and alignment around shared goals and objectives, which may differ from each individual group’s priorities. The approach to communication should not only keep all stakeholders updated but also clearly inform cross-functional dependencies. – Steve Ohanians, WebEnertia
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3. Model Project Management Workflow Around The Statement Of Work
The closest thing to a silver bullet for agencies to improve the quality and efficiency of their work is to model their project management workflow around the statement of work for each of their client projects. By tightly coupling these workflows with client expectations, they can reduce the chances of miscommunication being the cause of slippage. – Bobby Steinbach, MeanPug Digital
4. Know Where The Holes Are So You Can Fill The Gaps
Every client is different, and so is each relationship. A modern agency needs to be able to understand where a client has holes in their capabilities and where the agency can fill the gaps. Not every relationship makes sense, and it’s important to seek ones that are highly complementary between both parties. – Matt Pru, Stackmatix
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5. Bring In SMEs To Collaborate At The Right Time
It’s important to bring everyone to the table at the right time. Traditional wisdom is to include everyone as early in the process as possible, but it’s actually best to be more strategic about collaboration and bring in subject matter experts at the right time (and only at the right time) while keeping everyone informed of the status of the work. Don’t keep anyone in the dark, but don’t over-collaborate either. – Jeremy Jackson, SKY Marketing Consultants, LLC
6. Schedule Regular Interagency Team Meetings
It’s critical to work closely with other partners across the marketing spectrum to make sure your efforts are complementary. Work with your client to schedule regular IAT meetings and reporting to facilitate open communication and collaboration across internal and external teams. – Ilana Zalika, Resound Marketing LLC
7. Listen To The Departments That Serve The Customers
Agencies need to listen to the departments—sales, service, operations and so on—that serve the customers. Marketers are often the ones building the messaging and the brand promise, but these other departments have to make the promise a reality. By better understanding the interactions between employees and customers, agencies (and marketers in general) can build more compelling stories. – Chris Wallace, InnerView Group
8. Act As The Hub Of The Wheel And Facilitate Brainstorms
Agencies can act as the hub of the wheel and be great facilitators of brainstorming sessions that pull out the best ideas from all departments and people involved. Ideation can come from every employee, at every level of the organization, and agencies are in a unique position to create the environment and implement the best processes for all voices and ideas to be heard. – Dennis Cook, Gamut. Smart Media from Cox.
9. Serve As An Extension Of Clients’ In-House Marketing Teams
Hands down, the biggest factor in our success is how we consider ourselves an extension of our clients’ marketing teams. We need the context of what’s happening in other areas to be able to bring the right opportunities to the table and create the greatest value through our channel. – Nicky Senyard, Fintel Connect
10. Invite Anyone Who Can ‘Mess Up Your Plan Later’ To The Table
Our marketing strategy firm has a key rule: You have to invite anyone who can “mess up your plan later” to the strategy table. We use marketing strategy frameworks and tools through which cross-functional team members can provide input. This makes the initial meetings a little more difficult, but all functions feel as if they have input, and we typically sail through to execution with less resistance. – Tom Spitale, Impact
11. Team Up With Clients And Their Other Agency Partners
We just completed a campaign with a client where we worked across disciplines. The results end up being so much better. It means working as a team with the clients and the other agencies involved in the campaign. We held status calls with the other agency and had combined planning documents to make sure we did not miss a beat. If you just focus on the results of the campaign, everyone wins. – Gina Michnowicz, The Craftsman Agency
12. Help Public Relations Manage Messaging
The messaging used in PR, sales, marketing and social media must be consistent and representative of the brand. It should follow the same energy flow and voice. Having PR help across all of those areas will ensure everyone stays in high communication with each other. – Nicole Rodrigues, NRPR Group, INC
13. Develop An Integrated Workshop Approach
Develop an integrated workshop approach to collectively ideate the experiential implications of a new brand strategy. When it is used as a core operating philosophy that has relevance across all areas of a business, bringing people together to develop ways that they can activate the brand creates understanding about the real-world implications and opportunities that the brand can unlock. – Howard Breindel, DeSantis Breindel
14. Have A High-Level Campaign Objective
Companies need to have a high-level campaign objective, which should serve as the North Star for all performance. Aligning teams with marketing, PR, content and sales will only help provide a more unified message to consumers. We’ve often seen that a well-crafted campaign with fewer deliverables can outperform a frantic campaign where everyone is working on their own directives. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint
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Author: Expert Panel®, Forbes Councils Member