As the owner of the business, it is ultimately up to you to create integration between internal resources and contractors. How well you do this has a big impact on the leverage you get on the dollars you invest in online marketing services. Here are some thoughts and best practices we’ve built around integration.
There are two communication loops you need to establish with an online marketing partner:
- A regular, scheduled call to review reports and discuss upcoming activity. This call should include your internal marketing staff – and your staff should be prepared with questions.
- Direct, impromptu communication via email and phone directly between your staff and your vendor account manager when new products/services are launched, changes are made to the website or seasonal specials or events take place.
The account manager you’re working with probably has at least a dozen other clients and has a unique point of view about best practices in different areas that are relevant to you. They also work with a team that has even more clients, so they have exposure to a lot of different practices and ideas that could potentially benefit you. That’s a lot of information which you could get just by asking. Most people don’t ask. Some good questions to ask are:
- What are the best practices for this type of work?
- What are you seeing that is working with your other clients?
- What trends do you see emerging in the last couple of months that are relevant to our business?
We often see CEOs leaving their vendors on an island. They believe that the vendor is responsible for obtaining certain results, but don’t really put effort into using their own resources to increase the level of activity. In the case of online marketing companies, it is very often the case that a client will be paying for a defined amount of work to be done every month - content, page revisions, campaigns created, etc. If you adopt an approach geared towards leveraging your vendor’s intelligence and your own resources, you can start asking questions like:
- What can my team be doing to accelerate your work?
- What would you recommend we do more of if you had access to my team’s time?
- In what way can our team be more involved in the online marketing campaign so that this campaign has a higher chance of success? What things can we be doing on a monthly basis to complement your efforts?
Working to absorb best practices and industry knowledge from a vendor not only improves the campaigns you’re working on with them in the short term, but also helps to retain that knowledge in your organization after the vendor is gone.
Create a team mentality
When you finalize an agreement with a new partner, begin integrating them into your team. Build communication cycles that involve them in your internal planning calls. Treat your account manager at the vendor company like part of your staff and get them invested in the outcomes you’re trying to drive. When they commit to doing something with your entire team, you can be sure they will give it a high priority. Remember that people work to make money – but they work harder when they feel accountable to people they like.
Share vital information
Help your vendors do their job by sharing critical data with them. Sales, conversions, specials and new product and service data give them material to work with. The act of sharing information breeds trust and common accountability to shared goals. It also helps protect against a vendor hiding bad performance data or covering up mistakes. Some other ways that you can leverage your vendors experience and expertise are:
-Learn how to read analytics yourself and ask detailed questions about your traffic and conversions.
- Get some of your internal people Google-certified so they can understand what the vendors are doing and ask better questions. This is not very hard or expensive, but gives you a big edge in the long term.
Make sure that Bi-weekly or monthly calls are happening and that your team comes prepared with specific, well-thought-out questions.
Stay Connected at the top
The final recommendation we have for you is to make sure you talk to the CEO of each of your vendor companies at least once a year. Tell them about your experience with their team as well as your goals for your business going forward. Ask them what thoughts and experiences they can share about your market or general trends that might be affecting you. Simply scheduling a call with the CEO will trigger him/her to review your campaigns, get a status update from their team and make everyone downstream aware that you are directly communicating with the boss. It also gives you visibility at the top and puts you front-of-mind with the senior executive who may have other introductions or recommendations that could benefit you.