Marketing Agencies: 5 Tips to Maximize Your ROI

I’ve worked with several 3rd party marketing agencies throughout my career. Like any other industry, there are great ones and not-so-great ones. They also have a lot on their plate simply because they have multiple clients vying for their time and attention every day. And, as the saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

Based on my experience, I recommend using the following checks and balances to get the returns you are expecting. They make the whole outsourcing experience much less stressful for everyone involved.1

  1. A project-specific creative brief is an ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE for all agency services.
    • Be as specific as possible.
    • The ways in which a person absorbs information can vary greatly; for example, artists tend to be visual learners.
      • In addition to written instructions, use existing marketing materials, photos, graphics, hand-drawn pictures of layouts, etc.
      • For example, when I ask for a brochure, I provide a rough sketch of the sections, titles, etc. in addition to written and verbal instructions.
    • This is a win-win tactic for both your business and the agency.
    • Note that a good Brand Style Guide is incredibly helpful in communicating a whole lot of information in a clear, consistent and efficient way.
      • Use your Brand Guide for BOTH in-house and agency-led marketing projects.
      • Without sufficient guidance, any team can produce off-brand collateral!
  2. Make no assumptions and take no chances. 
    • Obviously, you and your marketing agency need to be on the same page.
    • Always ask them to run through all of your requirements and instructions to make sure nothing gets lost in translation.
    • If something looks ‘off’, ask about it right away. They often have a good reason for doing things in their own way. They are experts.
    • However, if there is an error or oversight, corrections can happen before you are already part way through your campaign (and budget).
Photo of fancy cocktail on a wooden bench on a sunny beach

Don’t rush off to the beach just yet…

Working with a
marketing agency is not a

  1. Follow up requests and changes made in person or over the phone, with an email so all parties have it in writing.
    • In the same vein as Tip #2, everyone needs to be pointed in the same direction.
    • I suggest asking the agency to provide minutes/notes for every meeting. Have it written explicitly into your contract with them.
    • The sooner you can spot any misunderstandings, the better the outcome of your project.
  2. Ensure that you will not be paying for the agency to fix their mistakes.
    • If you are paying by the hour for services, have this written into your project contracts.
    • If something goes wrong and you provided clear instructions, you shouldn’t be on the hook for more hourly fees.
    • This is one of the reasons to get everything in writing; from the creative brief to impromptu conversations to regular updates.
  3. Make sure you fully understand the feedback & data they give you.
    • If the agency is managing something like advertising or social media for your company, they should provide regular status reports on KPI2 metrics that matter.
    • Getting a dashboard with a summary of all the marketing activities for your account is common.
    • However, this “at-a-glance” tool only works if you truly understand each part and how it relates to your marketing and business goals.
    • Ask them to explain each part and the how each metric is relevant to your business and your campaign.
    • Don’t feel embarrassed. Keep asking questions until you are comfortable with their answers and you understand as much as you need to. They are the experts and should be able to explain everything they do and how they provide value in plain language.

Above all else, these 5 tips let an agency know that you are an engaged and attentive client who will not be satisfied with flashy presentations and superficial reporting. You mean business. You are expecting them to do their best work and be accountable just like anyone on your in-house team.

At face value, these tips might sound like a lot of extra work on your part. Based on personal experience (i.e. learning the hard way), it’s worth it! You get exactly what you want sooner, with less stress, and no extra fees. On the agency’s part, they will likely see more of your business in the future because of a job well-done. It’s a win-win!

  • Do you have any tips and tricks for working with marketing agencies?
  • Do you work for an agency and want to add your perspective to the conversation?
  • Do you have a horror story from either side of the relationship?
  • Have you had an exceptional experience working with an agency or client respectively?

Please share in the comments below!

1As you grow your business and start building your own marketing team(s), apply these tips to your in-house projects as well.
2KPI = Key Performance Indicator

© 2021-2022 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting.


Published by tracey copeland

Marketer, Creator, Coach | Brand Communications | Strategic Planning | Talented Leader of Diverse, Cross-functional Teams ― Tracey is an award-winning marketing and communications specialist with a passion for helping others define and reach their goals.

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