The Quick & Easy Guide to Working with Marketing Agencies

Since practically the dawn of time, brands have relied on agencies to be the brains and brawn behind their marketing efforts. From startups to industry giants, countless brands of all types and sizes have had brilliant agencies help lift them up into the spotlight. You may have even heard candid stories from fellow businesses about how they’ve turned to an agency in their efforts to transform their business. But what exactly does that mean?

Despite being powerful forces of business change and growth, marketing agencies’ spot behind the curtain means that people tend to not know how they work or what it’s like to work with one. If you’re in that same boat, don’t sweat it! This article will break it all down for you.

What Exactly is a Marketing Agency?

Remember the cool kids in back in school? The ones who oozed charisma, set the trends, and stood out among the sea of students? That’s a taste of the kind of swagger that agencies bring to the table.

Gifted with creativity and skilled in data-backed strategy, agencies seek to help others attract attention from the right crowd and rise above the competition. In other words, they’re the external team of specialized experts that brands turn to when they need guidance, extra hands, or even a full-blown transformation of their marketing efforts.

Of course, “marketing” is a huge umbrella term that covers everything from creative design and advertising to SEO and social media. Some agencies, like PH3, operate as reliable one-stop shops for all your marketing needs. Others may specialize and deliver great work in just one or two disciplines.

Before you start thinking about which type of agency you want to work with, though, it’s good to understand exactly when and why you should hire one in the first place.

When Should You Hire an Agency?

Every good agency-client relationship begins with a strong understanding of the partnership’s purpose. Knowing why you need agency help is what’s gonna build the foundation of trust that’s essential for getting the results you want. See it as an important investment. To get stellar returns, you have to be ready to trust the process and remember why you started.

Here are some solid signs you should start looking for an agency.

  • Your in-house team is spread way too thin. Rather than hiring more full-time employees to help with the workload or fill a new need, you can hire an agency and get access to a full marketing department of experienced experts for a similar or lower cost. Think of the agency as a powerful extension of your team there to help you change and grow your business in ways you couldn’t before,  and at a rate that gets you more bang for your buck.
  • You don’t have the resources to achieve your vision. From media and creator connections to the latest marketing tools, getting results from your marketing efforts can be tricky without the right resources. When you team up with an agency, you not only benefit from their team’s expertise but also their expansive network and tools.
  • The number of vendors you’re working with is getting outta control. Do you have countless individual vendors doing all types of small services? Make things simple and efficient by having a single agency by your side that can do it all. It’ll not only save you time and energy but will boost the cohesion of your marketing efforts by having the agency’s collaborative team of experts work towards solutions that contribute to the bigger picture.
  • You’re ready to grow and expand your marketing but aren’t too sure how. One of the best parts of working with an agency is that you get a fresh and expert perspective. Because of their work with other clients, agencies are a goldmine of insights into the best strategies and tactics to achieve your business goals. Plus, as new wins are secured with each client, they’ll apply the learnings to everyone and multiply results. Partner with one and reap the rewards of their experience.

So, whatcha thinking? If working with an agency sounds pretty good to you, keep on reading to find out how it all works.

What Should You Look for in an Agency?

Once you’ve got a good idea of why you want to work with a marketing agency and what you hope to achieve, you can start the process of hiring one. How you find your agency can vary greatly, from receiving recommendations to seeing a compelling ad online. You could even find your next agency by stumbling onto one of their helpful blog posts — wink wink.

What’s most critical after coming across a potential agency is determining if the two of you are a good fit. Here are some things to look for as you research and get to know the agency:

  • Goals Alignment. Think about why you need agency help in the first place. Does the agency have the capabilities and skills to help you achieve your goals?
  • Positive Track Record. Check out their case studies or reach out to clients they’ve helped before to confirm that their work has been known to deliver results.
  • Industry Experience. What industries do they usually work with? Some experience in your own industry can be helpful, but it’s also worth looking into agencies that have a successful history of working with diverse clients. Those kinds of agencies will be the ones who think outside the box, bringing a fresh perspective and new ideas to the table — a necessity for anyone looking to break through in their market.
  • Culture Fit. Get a feel for how well the teams would work together. You want an agency partner that not only believes in your brand and what it strives for but has a creative culture perfectly positioned to make brands like yours stand out. Also, consider aspects of the agency beyond the work itself. Is there a strong sense of camaraderie among the team? Do they contribute to meaningful causes? Are there any shared interests that both sides can bond over?
  • Budget-Friendly. Don’t hesitate to discuss the budget. You’ll want to have a clear understanding of what your budget can get you early on to avoid misunderstandings down the line.

What’s the Best Way to Get Started?

Once you’ve decided to work with an agency, there are a few things you’ll want to do early on to make sure things run smoothly. Before diving into the work itself, it’s a good idea to have the teams meet and get everyone on the same page about how the agency-client relationship will work. Ask, discuss, and finalize answers to questions like:

  • How involved do you expect to be as a client? Do you already have established strategies and ideas that need to be optimized and brought to life? Or are you giving full reins to the agency to come to you with detailed recommendations, plans, and results? Establish this upfront so that both teams know where their responsibilities start and end.
  • What are each team’s expectations? What metrics are we measuring success by? Having both teams agree on a clear set of expectations is the best foundation for a client-agency relationship that’s worth cheers-ing to.
  • Who are the main points of contact? Team structures differ from agency to agency so you’ll want to know exactly who you’ll be communicating with from the start. Figure this out for both teams (the agency will also need to know the best person on your side to contact) to ensure smooth sailing in the future.
  • Who will be the main decision maker? When ideas and solutions get passed through too many people, it becomes a bad game of telephone where everything gets watered down and the solutions lose impact. Avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen by agreeing on one person to call the shots when it comes to final decisions. This will help keep things running quickly, smoothly, and effectively.
  • How are we going to be communicating? Phone? Email? Zoom? And how often? Maybe you’ll want weekly updates by email and then monthly Zoom meetings. Express what works best for you and then come to an agreement with your agency.
  • What information, resources, and answers does each team need from the other? To be effective, agencies need to have a clear understanding of your business, so be prepared to share important details and answer tough questions. Similarly, have your own list of questions. “What’s the best way to give feedback?” is a good one to ask, for instance.

How Does Partnering with a Marketing Agency Work?

While every agency has its own unique process and approach, as a client, you can generally expect the following stages when you work with a marketing agency:

  1. Discovery. This is when the agency deep dives into your business to fully understand your problems, needs, past and current efforts, specific goals, and more. Additional research through marketing audits, surveys, competitive analyses, etc. can also occur during this stage.
  2. Insight Analysis. Once all that juicy information is collected, the agency then highlights the critical insights that will be used to craft the strategies and actions needed to achieve your business goals.
  3. Brainstorm and Planning. Here is where solutions start getting proposed. Based on what they’ve learned in the first two stages, the agency will start coming up with the best plan of attack based on your goals and pitch you those ideas for approval.
  1. Implementation. Once approved, the agency starts executing and bringing those plans to life. There may also be opportunities for feedback during this stage as various moving pieces come together.
  2. Measurement and Optimization. Most agencies will monitor the success of each effort once it goes live, whether it's a new ad campaign or a website redesign. If a particular effort isn’t doing too hot, they’ll move to review and optimize it for better performance.

And that’s the gist of it! Working with a marketing agency is meant to make your life easier, so if you’ve identified a need for some extra help, don’t hesitate to look for an agency partner.

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