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3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Marketing Partnerships

Steve Surdez

At Illumine8, we spend a lot of time thinking and writing about how to effectively reach people and businesses that could benefit from your product or services -- or both.

And that’s a good thing. The Illumine8 team wants you to succeed, because your success is our success.

Sometimes, however, it’s easy to overlook another important communication path—that being between a business and its marketing partner.

The truth is that even the most innovative and intelligent marketing plans will fall flat if there is poor communication within the team tasked with driving the strategy forward.

So, just for a moment, let’s shift our attention away from lead generation and conversion and take a look at what it takes to develop a great business-marketing partner relationship.

Take the Time to Get Oriented

Both a marketing agency and the business that hires it want to hit the ground running and start reaping the rewards of their partnership.

The agency wants to show what they can do, and the business wants leads in the door yesterday.

Moving forward together too fast can have negative long-term ramifications, however. It will benefit both parties to take some time to get to know one another during what is called the discovery process.

The discovery process, from a marketing partner’s perspective, is the phase at the start of a contract used to understand a company’s brand, product and/or services. A good marketing partner will meet with staff, senior leadership team members and will even interview clients and customers to develop a 360-degree view of an organization.

A great marketing partner will take the time to learn about the internal operations of a business in addition to what makes their brand tick.

Many marketing firms overlook the value of learning how a business operates and what kind of culture they embrace. Many businesses also refuse to invest time in understanding the very same things about their marketing partner.

It’s critical for each party to understand the following aspects of their partner:

  • Work hours
    • Is it 9 to 5, mostly in the office?
    • Do they have a lot of telecommuters?
    • Do they have employees in different time zones or overseas?
    • Do key employees work off hours to catch up?
    • What is the holiday schedule?
    • What is their high and low season for lead generation and sales?
  • Meeting preferences
    • Do they prefer face-to-face, phone, or web-based meetings?
    • Do they intentionally limit meeting times as company policy?
    • Do they prefer agendas sent a few days in advance?
    • What kind of meeting recaps are required and in what format?
  • Company culture
    • Are they casual or buttoned up?
    • Are they high-tech or old school?
    • Do they have a sense of humor?
    • Is there a clear hierarchy of command, or is the reporting structure flat?
  • Internal workflow process
    • When do they have staff meetings?
    • What CRM, project management, and design software do they use?
    • What is their conference season?
    • Do they have a brand document or style sheet?
    • When do they have quarterly or annual strategic planning sessions?

Eventually, all of this comes to light as a business and a marketing partner work together.

It’s never good, though, to learn these details too late after you’ve stepped on some toes, miscommunicated early on in the relationship, or delivered your final design files in a format their team members or printer cannot open, manipulate, or print.

Get off on the right foot by learning these details early on. Use a survey, an onboarding guide, or even conduct a half-day orientation seminar with the key team members from both sides. It’s truly a win-win approach that will pay off in the end.

Set Standing Touch Points

Once both parties are familiar with their respective operations and cultures, it’s crucial to establish consistent communication points and reporting milestones and stick to them as if your collective success depended on it.

Because, guess what? It does. 

  • Set standing weekly status meetings where account and project managers from both sides share action items and next steps
  • Set standing monthly meetings for senior leaders from both sides to check the pulse of the marketing strategy, review results, and make adjustments
  • Set standing quarterly meetings with the entire team to review the past quarter’s results and get on the same page about what’s working, what’s not, and how to move forward
  • If needed, establish annual presentations to the board of directors or other key stakeholders to present successes and showcase the great work the teams have done

By establishing regular communication points, the learning curve gets shorter, respective teams gel faster, successes can be celebrated, and unpleasant surprises or festering issues will be limited.

Establish a Common Language for Reporting

What a company designates as a “lead” in its CRM might be different than what qualifies as a lead for the marketing partner. The same applies to categories like sales, lost leads, prospects, and a host of other categories. What’s more, statistics like cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale can get skewed if each party speaks a different reporting language.

A great marketing partner will recognize this up front and work with a company to establish common language and reporting definitions. There’s nothing worse than not being able to justify a campaign’s success due to a lack of clarity around reporting definitions—this cuts both ways, damaging the marketing partner’s capacity to prove itself and the businesses’ ability to justify marketing investments to its stakeholders.

The language will never exactly match. It just never happens. However, if both parties have open discussions early on, much confusion will be avoided and showcasing successes and identifying issues before they get out of hand will be much, much easier.

Marketing agencies and businesses spend so much time focusing on generating business and finding new clients and customers that they sometimes forget to set one another up for success.

Communicate early and often not only about the brand and customer base, but also about how this new partnership can work best. Expand the discovery process and take the time to dig a little deeper into internal operations, cultures and lingo and it will lead to a greater level of success and a happier, more productive partnership.

As always, Illumine8 is here to help with any of your marketing or public relations needs. 


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