The First Three Months with Your New Marketing FirmThe first quarter of going into a new marketing partnership is a critical time.

It’s when you get to shape your relationship, develop rapport with one another, and introduce your new marketing partner to your world.

But unless you take the time at the beginning of the engagement to work with your marketing partner to set expectations and discuss strategy and goals, it can also be a time of early frustrations and miscommunications that may damage your relationship—and your campaign—in the long term.

Collaboratively setting goals, expectations, and a strong strategic framework for your work together is essential to getting your marketing partnership off on the right foot—and to keep it moving in the right direction.

And yet, it can be difficult to keep your eye on the prize when you’re getting accustomed to working with a new partner.

Today, we’ll take a look at what you should be doing during the first three months of a new marketing partnership.

Month One with Your New Marketing Firm

The team at your new marketing firm needs time to get to know you and your industry, but you’re ready to get down to business and start seeing results.

It’s tempting to urge your firm to hit the ground running, but don’t underestimate the importance of giving them time to get to know you.

Now is the time to actively show them your working style.

Month One Goals: Solidify Your Goals

Why did you hire a marketing firm?

It may sound like a simple question, but taking a moment to dive into the underlying assumptions of what your new marketing firm can do for you may help to clarify your goals.

Ask yourself: In an ideal world, what does marketing success look like?

Do you want to be on the cover of your local paper?

Do you want to increase your revenue by 10 percent?

Or would you like to drive 50 new leads in Q3?

Once you have your goal, and even if you have an idea of what tactics will achieve it, let your marketing firm drive a strategic plan that will provide you with solid tactical recommendations.

Trust them. You hired them to do this work.

Month One Expectations: Agree on the Ground Rules

This is an exciting time for you and your new firm.

They’ll be going the extra mile to prove their value and trying to make your work easier.

Keep this in mind as you work together, and expect consistency: Hold them to this standard later on, and expect they will let you know what they expect from you.

As early as possible, hash out the hard and fast rules you expect your partner to stick to—and vice versa.

Who is the person on their team you should go to with questions?

Should others from your team be cc’d on all emails?

What’s the window of time in which they should respond to an email?

When you get housekeeping and rule setting done early, you save every0one significant time (and frustration).

Another essential element of this is agreeing on the key performance indicators that matter to you.

Consider which metrics you find most important, and communicate them to your firm.

  • Are you most interested in growing your traffic?
  • What about new leads by channel?

When they know what you care about, they can report on that information on a regular basis.

Month One Strategy: Discuss and Revisit Your Brand

Sometimes organizations go into a marketing partnership with a strong mission, vision, and positioning statement their partner firm can use strategically.

Other times, an organization may have a sense of their brand, but be unable to articulate it in a way that makes sense for marketing.

If you find yourself in the latter camp, take time in the first month to revisit your branding with your new marketing firm.

Are you willing to revisit your value proposition with their help?

Can you do a workshop with them to draft key messages?

A well-articulated brand message will help ensure successful marketing communications in the long-run.

Month Two with Your New Marketing Firm

Now that you’ve started off on the right foot, it’s time to take steps to set you, your new partner, and your team up for long-term success.

Your marketing firm will begin work on the creation and communication of strategic goals that translate seamlessly into tactics you can implement.

Month Two Goals: Hold to SMART Goals

Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely: Goals need to be all these things.

If your firm doesn’t present a strategy that comes with SMART goals, push back.

In month two, your firm should develop and communicate three or four long-term strategic goals for your marketing partnership.

Understand you can hold them to these goals and that they’re responsible for ensuring all tactics correspond to these goals.

Ask them to discuss how they’ll measure progress towards these goals, the timeframe they expect to achieve them, and what it’ll look like when those goals are attained.

Month Two Expectations: Understand Processes and Timeline

Now that strategy is done, your team should begin to outline and execute on a series of marketing tactics.

Request a special meeting with them  to get a sense of their processes, chain of communication, and timeline.

Discuss when you’ll begin seeing the results of different marketing tactics, and what they need from you to ensure success day-to-day.

A good partner will want to schedule weekly calls to ensure you’re aware of what they’re doing and what it means for your shared marketing goals.

Month Two Strategy: Always Ask “Why?”

Your marketing firm’s bread and butter is likely creating and implementing the tactics that will help drive results for you.

What they need to do in this period, though, is make sure you understand why they’re using the tactics they are—and why they’re steering clear of others.

You may love the idea of a direct mail campaign, but your marketing firm may recommend against it.

Their insight on your budget, strategy and brand will inform their decision, but they owe it to you to explain their recommendations.

Ask them to tell you about their tactical plan in detail: Which tactics are working towards which goals? Why are they best suited for execution?

When you do this, you build trust with your marketing partner and increase the amount of transparency in the relationship as a whole.

It also gives you the ability to hold your marketing firm to a higher standard.

You’ll have a better understanding of where their tactics will lead in the next few months.

Month Three with Your New Marketing Firm

By this time, you’ve launched your marketing efforts and things are moving ahead as planned.

You may even be starting to see results!

Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security however, as you still have work to do ensuring long-term success.

Month Three Goals: Re-evaluate Tactics

By month three, your marketing team should have some initial data to determine how well they’re progressing towards your goals.

While they may need more time to determine whether or not tactics are successful, they should be planning for optimizations and, if needed, thinking about how they’ll revise their approach if it doesn’t deliver.

Ask them how they determine when a particular strategy or tactic isn’t working the way it’s expected to, and how they’ll reevaluate and come up with a new solution.

That way, if things do go awry, they’ll be prepared and you won’t be alarmed.

Month Three Expectations: Expect Their First Metrics Report

By now, your firm should have the data needed to show you baseline numbers on their progress.

Ideally, you now have enough data to see the month-over-month results of their work, so take this time to discuss metrics with them.

Can they project what kinds of growth you’ll see in the next year?

Do they have standards to compare against your metrics?

What are they doing in order to ensure growth continues at a steady pace?

If you have any questions on metrics, speak up.

Ensure you understand everything they’re reporting to you.

If there’s anything missing, ask them to get back to you with more information.

Month Three Strategy: Be Prepared for Pushback

You and your marketing firm have probably grown comfortable with each other at this point and, hopefully, their work has led you to have ample confidence in them.

However, they may have ideas that are quite different from what you’re used to (or what you’d expect), which can be scary.

You may really want to do a media campaign, but they’d recommend you invest in high-quality video marketing content, which you’ve never done before.

What do you do?

You need to be comfortable voicing your concerns, but you also need to be comfortable relying on your firm’s expertise.

You didn’t hire them as “yes-men,” but to help you succeed in your marketing goals.

If they push back on your ideas, don’t take it personally.

Instead, ask them for proof that their tactics will work.

When they present that, try following their lead.

Setting expectations, goals and strategy is a long-term effort that requires reminders and discussions throughout the partnership.

By taking steps in the first three months of a marketing partnership to clearly communicate your process and tactics, you’ll save everyone from wasted time and frustration in the long term.

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Bob Murphy

Bob Murphy is a managing partner at Movéo, which partners with category-leading brands to craft strategies and build tactics that engage audiences and drive business growth. Bob manages the Data & Insights group and the Strategy & Planning team at Movéo.

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