In today’s hypercompetitive business environment, marketing success often relies on outsourcing services for everything from consulting to strategy to implementation. After over a decade of providing these services to a variety of clients spanning various industries and geographic regions however, we’ve learned that true success is defined by much more than great marketing. Even the most innovative business model paired with the most ingenious marketing plan cannot reach its full potential if the client-agency relationship is not strong.

To help you get the most out of your marketing agency investment, below are a few fundamental dos and don’ts for a successful relationship:

DON’T: Expect marketing to disappear off your plate.

This is the number one misconception we hear from companies looking to outsource their marketing efforts. Many business owners hope to hand it off and never look back. And although, as an agency, our job is to make your life easier (and your business better)—you’re not totally off the hook. Your marketing strategy must be fully integrated with your business plan, and as such, you must be ready to invest the time to share important information with your marketing partner, weigh in on strategy, and effectively communicate your perspective.

DO: Set aside an allotted amount of time each month for marketing.

Because marketing is often the last thing on a busy business owner’s mind, it’s helpful to schedule consistent marketing meetings. For our clients, this often occurs on a recurring day so that it’s easy to plan ahead. This meeting can be used to finalize lingering projects, update the client on successes and campaign adjustments, discuss new business goals and milestones, and plan for upcoming initiatives. Ultimately, more time invested will result in better insights, better work, and better results for your business.

DON’T: Be afraid to voice your opinions.

Marketing may be your advisor’s area of expertise, but no one knows your company and brand better than you do. That’s why it’s not only important to be transparent about every aspect of your business, but also about your thoughts and ideas throughout the process. If the client-agency relationship is based on open, honest conversation, there’s a much greater chance that expectations will be met.

DO: Remember that your agency has your best interests in mind.

While it is expected that a company has input and final say in their marketing initiatives, it’s also expected than the client trusts the advisor to do their job. Too frequently, marketing firms are held back from doing their best work because of a lack of trust. Remember that your success is quite literally your agency’s success, as well. Their goal is to grow your business and to earn your trust as a referral source while doing so.

DON’T: Go into the relationship with a simplistic need.

In order to remain relevant in today’s world of overstimulated consumers with 6-second attention spans, brands can no longer view marketing as a one-dimensional project. This means that approaching an agency simply to create a new brochure, for example, likely won’t drive the results you desire. A good marketing firm strives to implement integrated marketing strategies to create a unified and seamless experience for your consumers across multiple channels.

DO: Enter the relationship with business goals in mind.

One of the most prominent flaws in marketing plans that we encounter is that they do not align with business goals. The problem? Marketing is a major driving force in reaching those goals, so it’s imperative to know how all of the pieces fit together. At Arco + Associates, before we make any recommendations to a client, we analyze every piece of financial data available. It’s the clients job not to withhold any of that information; oftentimes it’s in hidden or overlooked details that the most insightful nuggets are discovered.

DON’T: Forget about your company culture.

Corporate culture is a buzz word that is interpreted in various ways these days. In the world of marketing, however, it’s an essential piece of the puzzle. Your culture makes a direct impact on your marketing strategy and its effective execution, so it’s crucial that you communicate it to your agency. The clearer you are about your values, the better your team can authentically communicate to your target audience.

DO: Have fun and be open to new ideas.

In a world where technological advancements are made every single day, brands need to be as open to change as the consumers they wish to reach. Likewise, marketing as we once knew it has changed tremendously over the past decade, and will only continue to do so. But don’t let this scare you! This is an exciting time to be in business. New technology creates new channels and tactics which create new opportunities—but only for those willing to adapt.

DON’T: Hire a firm without doing your homework.

Let’s face it—marketing agencies have become a dime of dozen. However, as with any industry, only a percentage of them are able to provide top-tier services. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly vet each firm you’re considering. Ask for references—and actually check them—before you make any commitments. Ask about their employees and investigate their backgrounds. Find out how long they have been in business and what kind of growth they’ve seen since they started. Doing this homework ensures an initial level of trust and confidence that’s necessary for a successful relationship.

DO: Go with your gut.

We can’t stress enough that the key to a successful client-agency relationship is trust. Because your marketing advisor is an extension of your team, a strong interpersonal relationship must be formed from the word go. If there are any uncertainties, or if something just feels off in the beginning, there’s a good chance you’re not a good fit for one another.

Above all, remember that the perfect agency for your best friend’s business may not be the perfect agency for you. Every business benefits from a unique type of agency experience. Just because an agency comes highly recommended, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you. So do your research, evaluate your needs and goals, and ask lots of questions.

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