By Stewart Gandolf
Building a coherent marketing strategy that supports your long-term business goals requires collaboration, time and expertise – not to mention continuous oversight and optimization.
Hiring a marketing agency is an excellent option, especially when you need specialized expertise or simply do not have the necessary resources available.
The challenge? Not all agency-client relationships are fruitful. And some may cause more problems.
Whether you work for a marketing agency or are in the process of hiring one, it is possible to build a healthy relationship that benefits your bottom line.
This blog post shares valuable tips to help you establish a solid foundation for a fruitful relationship.
But before we dive in, here’s a quick review of the two main types of client-agency relationships and how to choose which one is right for you.
Types of Marketing Agency Relationships: Partnerships vs. Transaction work
Can your health marketing agency wait on the sidelines and perform tasks as needed? Yes. Is this approach the best way to build an effective marketing strategy and get your leads to convert? Absolutely not.
Not all transaction conditions are bad. But pure transactional relationships are less efficient. Why? This type of relationship not only invites inconsistencies with your branding and marketing efforts, but also damages your long-term business goals.
Benefits of a partnership
A collaborative, long-term relationship is crucial to building trust, mutual respect, accountability and creativity on both sides.
Here are just a few ways collaboration with a marketing agency for the healthcare sector can benefit your business:
• It saves your team time and money
If you have done your due diligence and chosen a high-quality industry-specific marketing agency, you will save money on getting the projects done right the first time. Here are a few ways you can make sure to choose the best marketing agency for your business:
- Conduct agency interviews with you and your team
- Analyze customer portfolio
- Research case histories
- Evaluate the agency’s breadth of expertise
• Establishes coherence with branding and marketing
Empowering your integrated marketing agency to develop an integrated strategy (consistent message across all your marketing channels) gives your target audience clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact. This is true no matter where they interact with your brand:
- Digital marketing
- Traditional advertising
- Social Media
• Creates potential for long-term partnership
Long-term partnerships enable marketing agencies to better understand their client’s brand challenges, cultivate essential knowledge and optimize their strength over time. As they know better, they can do better.
• Improves the quality of your work
Partnering with an experienced marketing agency provides professional perspectives and valuable insights that will help attract new customers. Marketing agencies often have robust IT departments with knowledge of new and emerging technologies. This means that they know which technology or platform will help you achieve the maximum results.
• Offers specialized professionals
When you hire the right agency, you have access to one team of experts, including content writers, search engine optimization professionals, graphic designers, and web design professionals who are proficient in creating and executing integrated marketing strategies.
In addition, the choice of an industry-specific agency means that you get a partner with a deep and broad understanding of your company and target group.
When you are ready for a partnership, you can take the necessary steps to build a healthy relationship.
How to develop and nurture a long-term relationship with your healthcare marketing agency
Avoid common stumbling blocks that endanger agency relationships and lay the groundwork for long-term success with these nine guidelines:
1) Define the type of partnership you need
If you are looking for a trusted partner to lead your marketing initiatives and raise your bottom line, it is crucial to lay a strong foundation from the start. A straightforward and in-depth conversation about your needs, wants and expectations is crucial to getting the right level of support.
Your healthcare marketing agency structures its services based on your needs as they understand them. You need to be as clear and concise as possible in all your communications (e.g. phone calls, project letters, feedback, etc.).
Service levels typically include:
one. Transactional (tactical)
This includes hiring a marketing agency for stand-alone projects, such as web development or logo creation. This level of service gets the job done, but the contract ends when the project is delivered.
Building and nurturing a strategic relationship with your marketing agency provides more opportunities to optimize messages across channels and provide more effective problem solving.
2) Define roles and responsibilities
It is important to know who is doing what and why, so you know exactly where to turn if problems arise. In addition, agencies can get off track when they do not know their area of competence.
Discussing who owns what (e.g. client vs. agency) will eliminate ambiguity, uncertainty and the possibility of confusion. It will also allow your agency to confidently work towards your goals and reach out if and when needed.
Identifying the key players on each team and what they do is just as important to success. Identifying one central point of contact and their preferred communication methods (eg email, text messages, phone calls) helps streamline and facilitate feedback so that each team reaches their goals on time.
3) Establish the basics
There are six key components that clients and agencies need to join in order to build a strong, collaborative partnership. Both teams must identify their needs, desires and expectations during the project’s initial call or meeting. This ensures that both the agency and the client are aware of:
- Marketing goals
- Roles and responsibilities of each team and team member
- Buyer personas or target audience for your business
- Expectations for communication
- Project strategy
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Reporting Plan
4) Be honest about what you do not know or need
As with most relationships, honesty and transparency are crucial to its success. Now is the time to talk openly about any marketing issues you are experiencing and what you need to do to achieve your definition of success. And it’s okay if you do not have all the answers, in fact most agencies expect to fill in the gaps. For example, if you do not have analytics on your site or an established brand style guide, your agency can help.
5) Be honest about your budget and your timeline
There are many stages of marketing production, including concept, design, print and online advertising, broadcast, photo shoots, promotional items, signage, events and more. It is important to consider each phase of the project and determine a reasonable budget and timeline based on your needs. It is also an opportunity to be realistic about what is possible, given your budget constraints and deadlines.
6) Share your vision
The more you can share with your agency, the better. Take the time to talk to them about your brand vision, mission and values. Once your marketing agency understands what makes your products, services and brand unique, they can leverage it to create and execute the best possible project that falls into your target audience.
7) Develop good project letters
A project brief is a brief description of key project information. It is a good starting point for a project plan and ultimately a successful project. Although intended as a summary, many project cards suffer from these common problems:
- It’s too vague.
- It’s too ambitious.
- It’s too long.
- It is not presented to all stakeholders at the same time.
Because all projects are unique and have specific requirements, there is no one-size-fits-all template for a project assignment. Each one depends on the scope and complexity of the project and should be a condensed version of your project plan.
Knowing this, it’s easy to see how project cards can end up being too vague, too ambitious or too long, right?
Project letters should contain only these five elements:
- Time schedule
- The scope of the project
At the end of your brief you should always link to any relevant documentation your marketing agency needs to be effective. If you need help developing a good project assignment, your agency can jump in and interview your team to get the information.
8) Work together until you are satisfied
Ideally, you will work together as a team until you are 100 percent satisfied. When each team is willing to discuss complex issues in a straightforward, confident and honest way, the quality of the work inevitably improves.
To advance my point, marketing agencies thrive on feedback, especially when it is concise, action-oriented, and represents the opinions of all stakeholders.
Tips for giving useful feedback:
- Consolidate all stakeholder feedback in a single email.
- Explain clearly what is missing or what additions you want.
- Point back to your original query or project letter.
9) Care relationship
Once you and your health marketing agency have established a good rhythm, it’s easy to put your relationship on autopilot. Do not – I can not express this enough. When you help your marketing agency succeed, you help your business achieve its marketing goals.
Continue to be responsive to your agency’s needs, straight to your expectations or concerns (eg having difficult conversations), and always be transparent. Also, do not be resentful if or when your agency gives you constructive feedback about your business.
Take the opportunity to celebrate gains, whether they happen internally or due to a combined marketing effort with your agency. Encouraging teams to celebrate each other’s success is the key to creating a motivating work environment. Not only does it increase morale, but a culture of praise increases commitment, productivity and resilience to the challenges that may arise.
When you carefully nurture your long-term relationship with your agency (and they do the same), everyone is more able to create and execute projects that move the needle on your business.