New to Working With An Agency? What to Expect

So, you decided to hire a marketing agency

Maybe it’s your first time, or it’s been a while.

We’re digging into what you need to know as you begin to embark on this new dynamic:

  • Is it the right move for you?
  • What are the common challenges and changes to expect when you’re moving from in-house or no marketing at all, to working with an agency?

This blog post aims to take guess-work out of creating a strong and healthy partnership from the moment that contracts are signed, sealed and delivered. Here are some things to know to start (and continue) on the right foot.

What to expect and how to support your agency

Start by getting to know each other

Working with an agency is like any other relationship, you start by getting to know each other:

  • How to communicate
  • Working styles
  • What success looks like
  • How to achieve success together
It boils down to establishing a partnership grounded in candor so both parties are continuously improving on how you can achieve your shared goals.

Open lines of feedback

This is a mutual partnership that should be grounded in transparency and trust so we’re empowered to do our best work together.

Don’t be shy to share feedback on things that can improve. Your agency wants to hear it.

Many agencies will have a feedback system set up, like a quarterly survey. Please take the few minutes to complete it so agencies can pivot based on what’s not working and double down on what is.

[TIP] Find yourself recreating presentations or reports delivered by your agency? TELL THEM! 

Agencies can better adapt to the way you need to circulate these items.

We are getting paid to make your job easier, we just need the knowledge from you to do it.

Agencies want to connect with Sr. Decision Makers

Get your agency exposure and buy-in from Sr. Decision Makers and other stakeholders in the organization.

We want to ensure that the work we’re doing is fully aligned to expectations up the chain- which could mean delivering different types of reports and pacing to multiple KPIs.

If your agency wants to get in contact with your boss or another leader in the organization, it’s extremely helpful to open those doors so the agency can understand what success looks like at all levels and ultimately help YOU be more successful in your role.

Agencies want to show you ROI

We’re not just trying to toot our horns, we want to communicate value to you in the way your company cares about and understand if the work we’re doing is impactful to your bottom line.

The payoff of aligning on value-based metrics (e.g. 1 lead = $X) will literally and figuratively pay dividends throughout the course of the partnership and can make the case for annual marketing budgets so much easier.

I suggest making this a priority at the start of the engagement so we are speaking the same language. This loops back to ensuring your agency has buy-in and aligned expectations up and down the chain of your company.

Be transparent about your company’s ability to implement work at the start of the project

This is a big one.

Especially for client/agency partnerships where your in-house team needs to continuously approve work or sequester development or content writing resources to get things live.

We’ve seen a lot of projects get stuck (read: not able to hit goals) because of an insurmountable backlog. If we understand the pace at which a company is able to fulfill their responsibilities, the entire scope and project can be structured accordingly.

One of our long-standing client partners shed some light on this topic:

“Setting expectations about pace and cadence is always a challenge. Agencies want to produce and publish work quickly to demonstrate value, and that speed isn’t always possible on the client side. On the other hand, no client wants their agency partners sitting around waiting on them to publish things. It can be a tough balance to strike, and I think we continue to improve on it even now after years of working together.”

court wakefield | vice president, marketing at children's health

Introduce your agency partners

You should open the door for agencies to commingle. The benefits of this are:

  • Less work for you as the middle-person
  • Opportunity to share/uncover insights to make each others’ work more beneficial
  • Getting a full picture of all marketing efforts
[TIP] Schedule at least one annual planning meeting with all parties
Ensure everyone is briefed in the same way and can find meaningful collaboration points.

[BONUS TIP] Need to develop a marketing plan?
Ask your agencies to do the heavy lifting!

Benefits of working with an agency

Access to a team of experts at your fingertips.

When you partner with an agency, you will (likely) have a small group of folks working on your business, but you will also have access to the knowledge of the agency as a whole.

Collectively, we’ve worked with hundreds, if not thousands, of clients who have probably experienced similar business challenges as you. Those learnings are constantly discussed and applied to your business.

[TIP] Great ideas don't always scale to all clients.

This a secret of every growing digital marketing agency, including Seer.

Look for an agency that works to solve that problem.

Expand your marketing technology and access to proprietary data & tools

Just like you have a tech stack that enables your marketing operations and data visibility, so do agencies.

And these tools and platforms are likely different from yours.

Some agencies have proprietary tools that focus on automation or data-driven insights (Seer’s is called Supernova). They also pay for technology to power their work so you don’t have to (think: SEMRush, Kenshoo, Supermetrics, Authority Labs, eMarketer, the list goes on).

Faster channel activation and results

On the topic of the aforementioned martech expansion & proprietary tools, these investments help increase the speed to reaching your performance goals.

Unless you have an expansive in-house team with a dedicated focus, there is an inherent opportunity cost to not working with an agency when considering the time it takes to bring something to market. Consider this when validating the investment in an agency - are you leaving leads on the table because you can’t activate fast enough? What if an agency can start to move the needle in half the time?

[TIP] Do a landscape analysis of your team’s capabilities and bandwidth

Are there gaps that, if filled, could get you closer to achieving your goals or answering a lingering business question?

What value do you place on that?

Agencies should be an extension of your team and are primed to help you fill gaps, either long term or short term.

Amplify your team’s expertise and acumen

Working with an agency who specializes in a subject matter can improve the overarching expertise and marketing acumen of your team.

Many agencies offer in-house training sessions for your teams (think: SEO 101, GA4 Training, etc.).

But outside of that, your agency should be constantly teaching you something new with their pulse on their managed marketing channels, the methodologies behind strategy development, and how industry changes impact your business.

Challenges of working with an agency (and how to mitigate them)

Knowledge transfer at the start of the project.

Be prepared to answer a ton of questions and over-communicate to ensure your new agency is set up for success.

It might take time at the start but the payoff will be invaluable as your agency becomes and extension of your team.

Do you have customer personas, marketing plans, brand trackers? Send them all, even if they don’t feel relevant to the project at face value.

[TIP] Have internal trainings for new hires at your company?

Your agency might find value in them as well.

Team changes

Agencies are fast paced which means that people grow quickly and oftentimes explore other roles. The point of contact you're working with when you start the project could be different 3-months down the road.

Be open to new team members and perspectives - fresh eyes on problems can often unlock solutions.

Agencies should have a comprehensive process in place to ensure a smooth transition and onboarding period for new team members

There’s a ton that goes on behind the scenes to appropriately staff projects based upon client and project needs.

[TIP] Don’t be afraid to share feedback or suggestions during these transition periods so the agency understands what type of talent to staff on your project.

Technology adoption

You will likely need to learn/adapt to new technologies surrounding communication, file delivery, and project management.

Ask your agency for training when needed.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask your agency to adapt to technologies you use if that will create more efficiencies. Seer’s project management team exists to help make work streams work for both parties, including integrating with a client’s system vs. our own.

The fine print: what might surprise you?

You will likely not have a dedicated team

Depending on the contract size and structure of your partnership, your team members will likely be doing similar work for a handful of client partners.

This doesn’t mean you’re not as important, but you may be 20% of a persons’ time vs. 80%.

Again, this isn’t a bad thing! This allows our team to take learnings from other client interactions to bring to your business, so strategy and optimizations aren’t developed in a vacuum.

Your agency will try to sell you on something, but it’s with purpose

Your agency shouldn’t be selling you on new services for the sake of increasing contract size (at least we don’t think so).

We are constantly trying to improve the way we deliver value to our clients, help you achieve your goals, and provide solutions to your business challenges.

If you don’t understand the value of something you’re being sold, flat out ask.

If your agency doesn’t have a good answer, they’re doing it wrong.

You will make (most) team members nervous at some point

One of our biggest goals is to build personal relationships with clients that enhance our professional relationships.

If team members are asking about your pets and if you saw the big game over the weekend, it’s not just for small talk, it’s helping us understand you as a human, not just someone who pays us for a service. Knowing one another on a personal level mitigates the anxiety that can come with having a difficult conversation.

Making the most out of your agency relationship

I will leave you with some thoughts from another client partner of ours who said it well:

“A successful agency relationship feels like the agency is a true partner. They don’t just work on a project and that’s it, but they are able to look at everything holistically. I can bounce thoughts and ideas off them, very open & clear communication, feels like we are in this together. And the agency has my back and isn’t just focused on short-term success but long term partnership.”

tina johnson | digital marketing manager, trex company

Our goal at Seer is to do exactly that: create a true partnership.

We want to do our best to work together to create that magic, but it doesn’t come without speed bumps. As long as both parties assume positive intent, those “tough” conversations become easy and before you know it we’re able to celebrate years of success together.


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Marissa Foster
Marissa Foster
Director, Client Engagement