Marketing and brand managers across all industries have a longer to-do list than ever before.
Consider the addition of social media, Web and content marketing, and SEO to their responsibilities—not to mention traditional tasks such as advertising and media relations. Imagine today’s marketing pros as orchestra conductors: How can they choose the right musicians and then manage the talent to create beautiful music?
Obviously there’s the option of using an internal team, but often those employees get distracted with internal matters and lose sight of proactive marketing campaigns. Furthermore, you can’t necessarily compile a team with expertise in all relevant areas. (Just imagine the recruiting and payroll needs.)
An alternative is enlisting multiple specialized agencies. Small firms are comfortable collaborating with a variety of partners. They don’t structure themselves to be everything to everyone, so small firms frequently team up with other agencies to offer multi-dimensional programs.
Brand managers like to keep in mind that this option is far more cost-effective than hiring a large, full-service (often global) firm, not to mention a great way to receive more attention and better service from seasoned executives.
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Following are five tips for managing and motivating a collaborative cross-agency effort for best results:
• Choose agencies willing to coordinate with others. Though it’s hard to fathom that a small, specialized firm doesn’t already regularly work collaboratively with other agencies, some are better at this than others. When determining which to hire, ask the reps at each firm about their multi-agency success stories. If you already work with one firm, you might want to tap into its existing network of specialists.
• Communicate your needs. Give the agencies a brief that outlines clear business objectives, pertinent information about the brand DNA, existing marketing efforts, and goals for each agency. For increased accountability, take the time to define success, including deliverables for each company.
• Establish the process. In order to get the most out of each agency, make sure you define a clear process for how you’d like the companies’ teams to work together. You should clarify the roles, expectations, and responsibilities of each agency. Further, you might assign an executive from one agency to lead the team.
• Set-up team tools. Nowadays the “cloud” enables multiple agencies to easily coordinate efforts. Tap into Google Docs, Dropbox, Skype meetings, your company’s intranet, and other online resources. Once set up, the team leader should create a timeline outlining deliverables for each participant.
• Reward collaboration. Agencies should be rewarded for great work. Bring the team together to celebrate successes. Be sensitive about equally acknowledging the contributions of each agency, assuming all players are doing a great job. The teams should know that their respective piece of the business is protected, and when you present a safety net, also offer a reason to jump higher.
As more and more executives leave large agencies to create small, specialized companies, multi-agency collaborations will become even more popular. If you do your due diligence, this approach should not create more work for you; rather, it should result in superior, cost-effective results.
Suzanne Mannion is executive vice president and co-founder at full-service communications firm Newsmaker Group. A version of this story originally appeared on the agency's blog.