Stupid Reason #9 – Scope creep.
Campaigns and product launches and such are complex things, with lots and lots of moving parts. Good marketers can see all the parts in their heads, and how they interact to achieve the goals. Great marketers actually write all of that down and share it with ALL of their agency partners right up front. Terrible marketers tell each agency only about the bits they need to know.
Good agencies remember to ask to see the full plan from the client, even the parts they aren’t actually executing. Great agencies write down all the bits they will do and ask pointed questions about things that seem to fall between the gaps in agency mandates.
This prevents the scenario poor Alex had to deal with as Terry’s product naming, launch event and sudden out-of-home buy came whirling out of nowhere and then became a giant billing argument.
Stupid Reason #10 – Success metrics are different.
Marketers keep talking about how important it is to compensate agencies based on results. Agencies keep ducking that one because some results are outside of their control. Both positions are perfectly reasonable, and the solution is out of reach only because most marketers don’t have time to work through a performance-based model that is fair for everyone.
In our first exchange, Terry’s success looked like hitting a launch date, driving a number of leads and staying on budget. For Alex, it looked like figuring out how to make a buck on an out-of-control campaign with a disorganized client. In the second scenario, Alex’s success was about getting creative out the door using a distracted team, whereas Terry had some scary revenue targets. A scope of work with even a few specific metrics and timelines would have worked wonders here.
Stupid Reason #11 – Thinking everything is a campaign
Working on a campaign is pretty cool. It’s crazy, intense, busy and, as our friends have demonstrated, a bit stressful. In the B2C world, campaigns flow around external events like holidays, going back to school or buying Dad something every June. In B2B, we generally don’t actually need campaigns, except for the odd thing to do with tax season or where we are wanting to launch something. The Campaign-o-Rama mentality means that we aren’t paying enough attention to the programmatic stuff that actually brings in revenue. Agencies are structured around campaigns, not usually around always-on lead generation, which means we’re missing opportunities to have great conversations and be ready to sell when our customers are ready to buy.
Stupid Reason #12 – The A Team was busy.
There is not an agency in town that won’t tell you over and over how focused they are on B2B. Yet, a quick look at the logo page on their website, a scan of the Twitter feed and, heaven helps us, the awards shelf will tell you that B2C is waaaaay sexier and waaaaay more important to almost all agencies than whatever boring drivel you are flogging. In most agencies, the staffing bears this out: B2B creative work is either training wheels or punishment, and most of the people on your team are on their way up or on their way out. That’s why Alex was presenting warmed over B2C creative with puppets. That’s why Terry ended up with Pubic Narwhals. That’s why B2B marketers need to insist on seeing the resumes of all the people who are let loose on their brand. Click here for more tips on this one.
Stupid Reason #13 – The details matter.
How are agencies different than other vendors? They aren’t. Just like other suppliers, your agency needs you to sign things, approve things and pay for things on time. In our first exchange, Alex could not get Terry to move approvals along in time to hit the deadlines. On the other hand, if you’re a marketer trying to explain your agency charges to the Keebler Elves, you’re having some fairly unique conversations. Terry, in the second exchange, is going to have a lot of explaining to do about all the cab rides the agency seemed to need. The Elves don’t get that. They also don’t get having to pre-pay your media buy, purchase direct mail postage up front or pay for proofreading, even for the things that go out with errors in them. –
Stupid Reason #14 – None of you are the target market.
Nobody likes focus groups for B2B: they involve people with jobs, which means they happen at night, and that’s inconvenient. That means the research company has to provide dinner, and, in most cases, that is not a core competency for them. So not only are you working late, but dinner sucks. Focus groups are also a little boring to watch, unless you are lucky enough to have a loud mouth and a terrible facilitator. But we need them for the simple reason that neither marketers nor creatives represent our target audience. Any creative that is presented based on the input of someone’s neighbour, spouse or online friend should be treated as garbage. Any client showing up with market insights that are based on their experience at another company, their broad assumptions about their customers or input from neighbour/spouse/invisible friend should be sent back for real data.
Stupid Reason #15 – Things take time.
Clients need to understand that stuff takes time. So do agencies. Creative work requires time. Approvals require time. Don’t back each other into corners.
Stupid Reason #16 – Everyone’s a friggin’ expert.
Agencies understand stuff like branding and naming and optimization. Clients understand positioning and customers and product details. When each party is second-guessing the other or questioning every decision, things hit a wall pretty fast. Respect each other’s expertise.