The 7 Steps to Managing Your Ad Agency
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You've selected the right advertising agency for your company. Great! Now what?
Managing an advertising agency is not as simple as hitting “autopilot,” crossing your fingers and hoping they get it right. You will need watchful eyes along the way, helping to keep your agency on the desired track. Here's how to make sure the agency is giving you what you need.
1. Set the business goals
Everything starts with the business goals. Your agency needs to be perfectly clear on the budget and what you define as success from the campaign. Sometimes that is upper funnel targets, such as growing your overall brand-awareness metrics. But, more often than not, it is lower funnel targets, such as hitting a desired revenue level and matching return on ad spend (ROAS) or customer acquisition cost (CAC). It is very difficult to manage for everything at the same time, so set a very specific goal to shoot for. As an example, a ROAS in the 5x to 10x range or a CAC not to exceed 33 percent of your average order value (AOV).
2. Set the target customers
Every business is different. If you are a B2B company, you typically target specific companies that would be logical buyers of your products. Or, more likely, specific employee roles, within those businesses. For example, if you are selling social media marketing software, you may be reaching out to a chief marketing officer or a director of social media, at those target companies. Understanding that not all companies are created equal. Maybe you are targeting employees at big, enterprise-scale Fortune 500 companies, or you are going after employees of small and medium businesses that can better afford your products. So, lock down your target company size and the target roles of employees inside those companies, understanding you may have more than one target persona to go after.
If you are a B2C company, you are most likely going after a particular customer demographic that would be most interested in your products. Is that men or women? Is it high-income, highly educated people, or more mass-market? Are they ages 21 to 34 or 55-plus? Does geography matter? If so, add your target states or cities of residence? If you can layer in persona information from various psychographic data sources, that is even better. For example, knowing whether your customer a “fitness fanatic” or an “arts and crafter” enables you to target media at that interest level. The better you understand your current customer base, the easier it will be to identify the right look-alike targets. Again, there may be more than one persona here.
3. Set the media mix
Mastering your marketing funnel and media mix is a more in-depth conversation. At the highest level of understanding, your marketing funnel has three parts: upper funnel, which drives awareness of your brand; middle funnel, which drives consideration for your products; and lower funnel, which drives transactions and revenues for your business. And, there are different media tactics to consider for each stage of the funnel. For example, maybe you would consider television media for upper funnel, social media for middle funnel, and search engine marketing for lower funnel. Understanding your goals is so important — it helps when choosing the right media to help you hit those goals. At this stage, you are deciding how much of your budget to put into each funnel stage (e.g., 20 percent upper, 30 percent middle and 50 percent lower), which tactics for each funnel stage (e.g., social media for middle funnel), and which specific publishers for each tactic (e.g., spend the social media budget evenly between Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter).
4. Set the analytics and reporting
The best advertising agencies these days are as much technology and analytics businesses as they are creative and branding businesses. They will make sure your website and campaigns are set up in a way that almost all clicks, contacts and transactions can be tracked back to their originating source, including assigning cross-channel marketing attribution metrics. And, they will build the dashboards that will enable you to easily see which marketing efforts are working toward hitting your desired goals and which ones are not. Then they can easily dial up or dial down any winning or losing tactics within the campaign. It is important that the key business goals are being measured in these reports by funnel stage, by channel, by publisher, by campaign, by creative, etc. Make sure you are getting these summary reports sent to you on at least a weekly basis so you can track their progress and make any changes quickly before you waste money on a “losing” campaign. And make sure you are using the right metrics at each funnel stage (e.g., CPV upper funnel, CPL middle funnel and CPA lower funnel).
5. Set the communications frequency
Your communications with your agency depends on the size of your budget and how often things are changing. If it is a relatively small budget and the campaign is largely optimized and static in terms of changes, maybe you can get away with monthly meetings. If it is a large budget, the campaign is still being set up, and lots of testing and changes are being made, you will likely need weekly meetings with your agency. In any case, meetings will be needed for communications. You will want to make sure the campaign is achieving your goals, and your agency may need guidance from you for anything they are not clear on to address any forks in the road.
6. Set the roles and responsibilities
Think of setting up multilevel roles and responsibilities at both your company and your agency. Those levels most likely include executive oversight (e.g., a CMO in your business and a head of strategy at the agency) that is not too involved in the day-to-day but is being kept abreast of the big-picture issues; day-to-day project leadership and management (e.g., a VP of media buying in your business and an account executive at the agency), that are quarterbacking their teams and keeping everyone on task and on plan; and the teams in the trenches living and breathing the campaign and the resulting data (e.g., a social media marketing manager at your company and a head of social media at your agency). Make sure you have the appropriate teams set up at both your company and your agency, to optimize at each level — strategic, planning and execution.
7. Rinse and repeat
Completing the six steps the above doesn’t mean your job is done. This is an iterative process — every quarter you should go back to step one to restudy everything and adjust for any changes in business goals, customer learnings, media learnings, etc. and then reset the campaign in steps two through six for the new learnings. Plan for quarterly campaign review meetings with your agencies and internal teams at that more strategic level.
It may sound like a daunting process, but it is what's required to make sure that you don’t unnecessarily flush marketing dollars down the toilet. A strong, optimized relationship with your advertising agency could be the difference between sales and profits being flat this year or up 100 percent.