Congratulations, you've just signed on with a new agency to help you and your organization implement a digital marketing campaign!
These are exciting times for everyone as people get ready to kick off the campaign. While you obviously hired this agency for a number of different reasons that should have you giddy to get started with them, experience says that this feeling can't last forever and depending on a number of factors, the honeymoon period between you and your agency can be short-lived.
There are a number of key moments that occur between an organization and agency that will define the two's entire relationship. Depending on how both sides handle those moments, either a short-lived client-vendor interaction or long-term partnership will be the result. Knowing this, it's important that you understand what these moments are, what they mean to both sides and how you can properly navigate through them to help build a true partnership with your new marketing ally.
Key Moment: The Campaign Kick Off
The campaign kick off is quite obviously a big deal for most everyone involved between both parties. The purpose of this meeting is mainly to cover 3 key things; introducing the teams, setting the vision for what the campaign will be, and establishing next steps with a timeline for execution. Even when this simple agenda is shared, both parties can still come to this meeting with (potentially) competing objectives and ideas.
Often times, only a few members from the client side were involved in the vetting of the agency so a number of the remaining team there are less in the loop surrounding who this agency is and why they're so special. This can sometimes lead to them coming into this meeting with their own preconceived notions of who the agency is and what they can do for them. From the agency's perspective, the same can be true, with a number of the members of the account team only knowing things about the client and campaign that they learned from their own research and preparation from their sales team. While both teams quite obviously don't intentionally come into this meeting ill-prepared or with false ideas surrounding ability and execution, it's hard to ever truly know what's what until both parties dive in. Even then, this isn't the only or biggest issue that can arise from a campaign kick off.
From a client perspective, you will want to ensure that the different members of your agency team truly understands your business and marketing goals. It's important for you to feel comfortable by the end of this meeting knowing that your new partner "gets it" and is moving in the right direction in your eyes. If by the end of this meeting you don't feel this way, doubt can quickly start to seep into you and your team, thus tainting nearly everything that the agency does and delivers for you moving forward.
From an agency's perspective, the campaign kick off meeting is the time to establish themselves as credible experts. They can often feel like they're fighting uphill battles with members of client teams who would rather tell them what to do in campaigns versus listen to or discuss ideas brought to the client by the agency. With these experiences in mind, the campaign kick off meeting is often the beginning of an internal publicity campaign that an agency subtly launches at the client with the aim of proving to all on the team that they are credible, capable experts within their field who should be trusted and looked at as equal to the client team. This is done through the leading of the kick off meeting and the structure established in both the agenda and the next steps for the campaign. If by the end of the kick off meeting an agency doesn't feel like the client understands their full capabilities and vision, fear of a client-run campaign can set in and a team who should be focused on the needs of their client may slowly become defensive.
How to Properly Navigate the Campaign Kick Off
As with nearly any situation in life, the key to both parties properly navigating the campaign kick off meeting is to understand the other sides' paradigm.
Knowing that the agency is looking to establish itself as experts in the eyes of you and your team, as a client you should allow them the opportunity to prove to you their expertise and methods. Remember that you brought this team in for a reason and unless it was expressly stated from the beginning, it most likely wasn't so you could tell them how to do their job. This most certainly doesn't mean that you need to do everything that they say or that you can't push back on ideas or methods that you don't believe are right for your organization, but it does ask that you approach these disagreements as a discussion and not an order.
With the understanding that the client has a lot of skin in the game by hiring an agency (both with the monetary investment and possibly in the direction it's taking its marketing), the account team should look to kick off meeting that provides structure while also allowing the client to be and feel heard.
The most productive and rewarding client-agency relationships are those that are viewed as a partnership between equals. Without understanding each other's perspectives and objectives, it can be hard for both teams to truly work synergistically together and easy to forget the overall goals of the relationship. The campaign kick off is just one key moment in a relationship that will define how you will work with an agency. You may not be able to control how your agency initially acts in this first moment but understanding their paradigm might just be able to help you better handle any miscues that may occur on your agency's end.