Arguably the most difficult and important relationship a person can ever enter into is the institution of matrimony. Marriage is hard. Marriages fail. But the ones that last are the ones where both parties are committed to it and work at it. Where everyone chooses every day to stay the course, to grow, to learn and be better together than they would be alone.
…that sounds a lot like the relationship between a digital marketing agency and its client. But, you knew that was coming.
So let’s break down exactly how choosing a digital marketing agency is a lot like getting married.
Be Ready for the Engagement
When a business chooses an agency, signing that contract is as serious a commitment as getting down on one knee and offering up a ring. Making that decision based solely on cost or short-term goals is about as well thought out as a tequila-induced, Elvis-officiated, drive-through wedding at 2am in Vegas.
In other words, it’s a bad idea.
Instead, you want to select your agency similarly to how you would select the person you wish to spend your life with. You want to take the time to make sure you have similar philosophies on digital marketing, that your processes are aligned and you believe in their ability to execute on the strategies you define together. You need to get all the information you need to be ready to make that commitment. And once you do, you need to trust them.
That means allowing them the time they need to do research, plan, strategize, execute and measure. You don’t need to say ‘til death or bankruptcy do us part, but you have to be prepared to stick it out long enough for a campaign to fully unfold.
You should go into the relationship understanding the specifics you want on paper like deliverables, metrics, reporting and goals. You should set time frames for campaign progress reviews and make sure that on-going evaluation leaves room to change course or re-prioritize as events and performance dictate. This is how accountability is established and healthy expectations are formed.
Share the Load
Marriages thrive on teamwork. One person shouldn’t do all the household chores and one person shouldn’t make all the decisions unilaterally. Imbalances like that will put even a well-matched couple into counselling. An agency and a client should find a way to distribute the to-dos. Yes, you hire a company to do the bulk of the marketing work, but there are resources and talents you have that need to be utilized.
That’s how good marriages work! You don’t put the culinary failure in charge of cooking dinner, or the one who can’t tell bleach from fabric softener in charge of the laundry.
An agency, no matter how good, won’t be able to master ALL the nuances of your day-to-day, so we rely on you to provide insight into the world you know so well. We need feedback on how well our efforts are aligning with the subtleties that define your team and your brand. We will never have the perspective that you do and we will never be able to read your mind. A lack of communication is how blenders get bought as anniversary gifts.
We also need to know what you’re up to aside from what we’re working on. If you have a sale, event, direct mailing or new product launch, we need to know that. Not just because we can probably help, like, a lot. But also because it could skew our measurements.
If you attend a trade show and suddenly your direct traffic or branded search have a spike, we need to be able to correctly attribute that. But we can also support it. Maybe we ramp up our remarketing to site visitors in order to help stay present in their minds after the conference is over. There are so many ways we can help you better leverage and track anything you are doing that not enlisting our support is like trying to move all the living room furniture alone. Let us help. We promise we can make it better and easier if you do.
Disagreement Is Healthy
A really good marriage doesn’t mean you get along all the time. It’s not constant hand holding, starry eyes and foot rubs. Nope, it’s arguing over how the dishwasher should be loaded, whether to watch football or Grey’s Anatomy and what to have for dinner. Sometimes it’s discussing when to have kids, go back to school or if it makes sense to move across the country. Whether it’s working through minor squabbles or making major life-changing decisions (again, like dinner), you do it together.
That’s how it works in marriage, that’s how it works with a client and an agency.
Do we sometimes disagree about how much content should be on the home page or whether a section of the site should or shouldn’t live in your main navigation? Sure. That’s ok, because somewhere between your needs and our recommendations might be an even better answer. But for any of that to work, and for us to find that better alternative together, it requires total honesty and transparency on both sides. If you’re not happy with our work, let us know, tell us why. Maybe there’s something we missed, or miscommunicated. If you are increasingly unhappy with your partners’ habit of leaving towels on the floor, you say something. You don’t just cite it in the paperwork when you file for divorce.
Of course that means you have a right to demand transparency from your agency as well. Your marketing program shouldn’t be some magical process that mystifies you. What we do isn’t sorcery and if someone has trouble explaining where your budget is going or what is being done with it, there’s probably a bigger problem. You wouldn’t tell your wife “I’m going out” and then not come home for a week. Agencies should be able to tell you what is happening and keep you in the loop as much as we expect the same from clients.
Making it Last
Obviously the professional partnership between an agency and a client doesn’t have the same level of intimacy as our personal relationships. But if we’re gonna kill it as a team, we’ve gotta be pretty tight. That means being willing to commit, working together and figuring it out when we’re not completely aligned. No marriage or business partnership is ever perfect. But perseverance is never about perfection. It’s about the will to fight for something that has potential. Something that is built on a deep understanding and mutual respect. The best partner is someone who makes you the best version of yourself. A good agency can do that for you. And we are who we are today because of the clients who have done that for us.