Thursday, June 27, 2019

Five Keys to Working with a Team of Agencies

There a shift happening in the marketing world. As companies look to streamline every aspect of their businesses, they are turning to “one-stop shops” for all of their marketing needs. But, just as you wouldn’t trust one doctor to treat every aspect of your body, it’s highly unrealistic to expect one agency will be able to offer best-in-class service across the broad, varied and ever-evolving marketing spectrum.

With the complexity and choice of media channels today, there are a lot more moving parts and opportunities than ever before. It’s virtually impossible for any single agency – no matter the size – to be able to cover all marketing bases – let alone, do it well. Savvy companies understand this and, instead, are finding success working with integrated agency teams.

We have experienced this type of collaboration firsthand through our work with Trex Company, the inventor and undisputed market leader in composite decking – and for good reason. Trex understands the benefits of working with specialists and knows that two heads are better than one when it comes to promoting and elevating its world-class brand. In fact, LCWA is part of a team of five core marketing agencies working together to promote Trex. We also partner with four additional PR firms in key international markets to promote the brand globally.

As with any team, this type of collaboration requires commitment, authenticity and transparency. It requires putting egos on the shelf and focusing on what’s best for the client. It can be challenging at times – especially when there is overlap in capabilities between agencies. In my experience, however, a little flexibility and cooperation can go a long way toward delivering a whole that is, unquestionably, greater than the sum of its individual agency parts.

Having had the privilege of being part of an effective multi-agency team for the past decade, following are some lessons we’ve learned along the way for successful collaboration

1. Know your strengths
Understand that each agency was hired for a reason and brings a specific type of expertise to the party. While you may have capabilities in other areas, focus on what you have been hired to do and do it really well. Be at the ready if other capabilities are needed but, otherwise, stay in your lane and set yourself apart by delivering excellent work that exceeds expectations.

2. Clarify roles and responsibilities
Agencies are used to managing clients, creating workflows and leading client meetings and conference calls. With more than one agency in the picture, responsibilities can become muddled. A simple rule of thumb is, if it falls into your area of expertise, you’re the project lead. Likewise, know when to let someone else take the lead. If there are projects or assignments for which multiple agencies are qualified, have an open discussion at the outset to determine who will take the lead. Be reasonable, be fair and be clear so that the team – and the client - knows who’s in charge and how the work will be completed.

3. Foster open communications
Communication is crucial to effective integration and collaboration. Keep each other updated by scheduling regular all-agency calls or meetings to review projects, status updates, timelines, deliverables and next steps. Share research, background materials, insights and analyses that might be helpful to other agency team members. Use collaboration tools like WebEx and Google Docs to prepare integrated documents and presentations, and leverage project management sites, such as Basecamp, to house materials where they can be easily accessed at any time by all agency partners.

4. Make time to meet without the client
While time with the client is always valuable, it is equally essential for agency partners to meet autonomously. For Trex, our agency team schedules all-agency calls and meetings to brainstorm, strategize, evaluate and assess various projects. These agency-only events allow us to speak openly and freely about challenges and concerns. We also are able to brainstorm together without worrying about positioning or polish. In my opinion, this is when the magic happens. Ideas are sparked and built upon, bonds are formed, and the collaboration is organic.

5. Pitch integrated programs as a team
When a client invests in a multi-agency marketing team, it is important to deliver against that vision by approaching every call and meeting with the client as a united front. Focus on delivering holistic, integrated solutions – rather than pitching tactical recommendations by discipline. Support and amplify each other’s ideas and highlight opportunities where assets can be leveraged and maximized across channels. This not only reinforces the collaboration between agencies but also demonstrates how the team is realizing time and cost efficiencies that positively impact the client’s bottom line.

As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. When agencies collaborate, they create a rising tide that lifts all of the boats in the marketing mix, and the client gets the best of everything.

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