In a previous role a handful of years ago, I had an experience that many agency alumni have experienced. My team was working with a large client that had a roster of different agencies and partners helping them meet their goals—creative, digital, analytics, data management, and beyond. We had come up with a mobile content strategy that we knew we could execute on and measure. When we shared it, they were excited about the idea and asked to bring in their mobile agency to integrate the campaign data with several other data-management platforms they were using. That they even had a mobile agency was a surprise to us. Such situations can easily turn into an agency turf war, which is understandable; each team feels invested and wants to own the results. In this case, however, we decided to work jointly with the platforms and build on each agency’s capabilities and background knowledge to strengthen the original idea and update the execution plan with clear roles and responsibilities.
It’s no secret that the pace of change is constantly creating new marketing opportunities and challenges. To harness these opportunities, you might have multiple agencies and partners working with you to help you keep up, fill your channels with quality content, and meet and manage your goals. Without realizing it, different teams often end up working in silos, creating redundancies and missing opportunities to share valuable data and analyses.
On the content marketing side, we’re responsible for strategizing and creating high-quality, valuable content and campaigns that elevate your reputation, make your ideas accessible, and help you connect with various target audiences. The strategies and output from your content marketing partner will be much more effective when they use valuable metrics from your other agencies and platforms—for example, audience insights from social, paid search data, customer insights from your customer relationship management platform, or geographical data from your sales dashboard.
Having an integrated planning process can ensure the right teams are connected, everyone has access to data and insights that inform their strategy, and your partners have visibility into your 360-degree marketing effort for better ideas and consistency.
Putting an integrated planning process in place
To get the most value out of an integrated process, you should make sure to do two key things.
Avoid a “one and done” annual planning and strategy meeting: Connect the right people
A large meeting prior to the new calendar year helps get things in motion, but with so many participants, it can be difficult to collect everyone’s best ideas. Even the best-run meeting is likely to turn into an exaggerated version of this conference call parody. The energizing effect of a big kickoff is likely to dissipate once everyone’s back to their day-to-day activities. A successful integrated process requires an ongoing, coordinated effort from both the agencies and platforms and the internal leaders who manage their work. Internal leaders should plan to meet on their own regularly to share updates and initiatives and prioritize the larger campaigns or projects that make sense for an all-hands-on-deck approach.
At the same time, agency leads should communicate high-level findings to one another and identify opportunities that require capabilities outside their own; it’s likely that you already work with an agency that has those capabilities, and collaboration will ultimately deliver greater results for both you and the agencies.
Clearly define roles and responsibilities
The notion of traditional agencies is beginning to change. Many media or PR firms, for example, are moving into areas historically associated with creative agencies. Even an organization that hires partners for different specialties will find some overlap, which will only become more muddied when trying to integrate the planning process. Defining roles and responsibilities, having a measure of accountability, and setting expectations about collaboration will be crucial in making the integration work. Not doing so could result in scope creep, undue competition or instability, or redundancies—none of which are productive. Setting the right tone and defining swim lanes will help everyone do their job better and more confidently.
Organizations that are already investing in their partners’ and agencies’ expertise can get even more from that investment by considering their full marketing mix and what different teams can learn from each other. As a content marketing partner to our clients, we know there are important insights we can learn from their other agencies. An integrated planning process helps us work together toward our common goal of helping our clients.