Getting the most out of your marketing agency

  • Tracy Harris

    Tracy Harris

    Vice President of Marketing, Knak

Published Mar 8, 2023

Make your agency strategic


Unlock the potential of your marketing agency. Discover key pillars for success, avoid common pitfalls, and optimize collaboration in email marketing.

Choosing to work with a marketing agency is a decision a lot of marketing teams make, especially when it comes to strategic projects or specific campaigns. Why? It’s simple. Agencies can help an organization think differently and spark new ways of doing things. They can help you focus attention on key areas of marketing, or even be a key resource for your team during busy periods.

Marketing agencies will typically provide fresh insights into your campaigns. They can be an injection of creative ideas – and much-needed scaffolding – if you’re building out an in-house team or your organization is scaling at pace. But getting the relationship right can sometimes be difficult.

Many relationships with agencies fall apart because the client will often feel as though they are not getting the best bang for their buck. Bills start stacking up, and battles over who owns creativity can result in a relationship that is unsatisfying for both parties.

So, especially in challenging economic times when every penny matters, how can you make the most of your agency relationships?

Choosing the right agency

It all starts with choosing the right partner to work with. What are your goals? Are you strategically looking for new ideas? Or are you resourcing areas that are currently understaffed? Understanding what success will look like in a partnership will help you choose the right partner.

By working with multiple organizations, agency teams are often exposed to the latest marketing insights and trends in different industries. This gives them the potential to cross-pollinate best practices, and bring in new angles to their marketing efforts. When the relationship is managed in the right way, agencies will absolutely help to bring your company forward. But making that happen requires vision, direction, and clearly-defined tasks.

Key pillars to success

When it comes to working with a marketing agency, there are four key pillars to success:

  1. Defined relationships: Share your expectations and requirements for what you’re looking for before starting a working relationship. Be clear about what the pieces are right away. 
  2. A strong partnership: To ensure the relationship thrives, it has to be a true partnership; one built on good listening on both sides. 
  3. Clear communication: Clear and open communication channels are essential so that there is no ambiguity around roles, responsibilities, and expected outcomes.
  4. Cultural fit: Early and ongoing conversations can help you determine a good cultural fit, something which also extends to the technologies you’re using. 

Get these things right, and you and your agency can quickly, and effectively, work together in ways that benefit your organization. Get it wrong and the cost of making things right can add up quickly.

Avoiding common pitfalls

When it comes to choosing a marketing agency, if you’re not finding the right partner — the right team, people, and skills to help you achieve your goal — you can end up with a money pit that isn’t benefiting your company.

Forming a misaligned partnership

Ultimately, you need a partner that’s excited by your vision and wants to do everything they can to make it happen. As such, you need a team that is both quick and responsive, with the ability to adapt when needed.

Alignment needs to exist across the board. From understanding your brand book to the go-to-market strategy. It should be clear that your agency understands your vision and knows how to improve it.

In practice, your agency should be setting up a time to get your input, workshop ideas, and review their initial drafts with you. Otherwise, if they dive straight into executing work that doesn’t meet your goals, you could end up spending a big part of your budget on revisiting and fixing their work.

Staying in the execution realm

Another common pitfall is when you provide agencies with low-level work, on repeat. Agency individuals are often highly skilled and very experienced marketing professionals — and that’s why they charge hefty hourly rates. So, sending them everyday work that could be handled in-house can be a wasted opportunity. While they’ll gladly take on the work, and charge for it, the best value usually comes from their input on the strategic side.

For low-level execution tasks, it’s best to choose individual contractors or freelancers that have the specific skill set you’re looking for. At Knak, for instance, we have relationships with contract workers for these tasks. On the other hand, our agency partners help us reach our more creative and strategic goals. They manage full-scale projects that cannot be handled in-house.

The bottom line is that, without properly defined roles and responsibilities, the relationship can soon sour, especially if the agency is not being used for its strengths.

What this looks like in email marketing

Most organizations have a marketing agency on record that they work with, which gives them all the skills and expertise they need. Email marketing is typically one aspect of marketing that gets farmed out to agencies. The reason?

In-house marketing teams, using platforms like Eloqua, Pardot, or Marketo, often don’t have the time or technical expertise to hand-code emails. If you have a bit of a confusing process, it can take weeks, or even months, for an agency to create an email or landing page campaign that fits your needs. That timeframe includes a lot of back-and-forth communication and hours spent by both sides, which results in lots of billable hours and money spent. 

What should be a streamlined and responsive email campaign can sometimes turn into a drawn-out and even unhappy relationship, which isn’t mutually beneficial. Agencies can also sometimes struggle to maintain work within the billable hours expected.

Has your agency recommended in-house creation platforms you could use to streamline your campaign creation process? If not, do you know if they are on top of the best technologies? Trusting that they will recommend the best possible solution is important for your business. Then, focusing them on strategic work that improves the bottom line is money better spent.

With the right MarTech in place, the whole operation can run a lot quicker and smoother. Using a campaign creation platform like Knak, in-house marketers can really drive efficiencies with time-saving automation to keep some creativity in-house and then focus the agency on more meaningful and creative work.

If you’re looking for some more tips on having an efficient and mutually beneficial relationship with your agency, check out our blog on 10 questions to ask your agency about email and landing page creation.

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  • Tracy Harris


    Tracy Harris

    Vice President of Marketing, Knak

    Tracy is a passionate marketer with over 20 years of experience in B2B Marketing. Working at companies such as Entrust, Cognos, IBM and Trend Marketing, Tracy has experience in analytics, branding, product marketing, campaigns, demand generation, partner marketing and sales enablement. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys time outdoors with her family and three dogs at the lake in the summer and hitting the slopes and watching hockey during winter.

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