Who’s on your team? Your internal team instantly comes to mind…people you work with every day, who have a vested interest in your success. These are the professionals who are intimately familiar with your company, your mission, your messages, your customers, your salespeople, and their goals.
At an even deeper level, your team is your tribe, your peeps, your squad. They keep your organization humming because they are always on, engaged, analyzing, and creating. They are the ones who innovate and tweak and do the daily work to produce your programs, keep them going—and build the next success.
How about your outside contributors? Do they count as part of your team?
Almost every marketing leader needs to work with outside partners. You may discover you lack time, internal expertise, or resources in a particular area or project. Or you may be looking for broader, strategic guidance from an outside perspective. Outside experts can provide highly valuable solutions to some of your most important needs.
Whatever the reason you’re working with them, those outside partners are now a part of the operation of your marketing organization. And if they aren’t functioning as part of your TEAM, they may not be effective partners.
How can you overcome those issues and get the most out of your mutual relationship?
Facing the Frustration of Managing Teams and Partners
For many marketing leaders, finding balance as you manage your internal and external teams is a constant challenge. Working with outside partners comes with a number of built-in issues, including increased management time, communication and fulfillment of expectations, and partner availability. In addition, you may need to add a layer of review to ensure quality and brand consistency in deliverables.
Sometimes, these issues seem so overwhelming that marketing leaders decide it’s easier to just have the internal team do the work…until they just can’t. When your team is overloaded and stressed and frustrated, that tribe can turn into a mob. And then nothing gets done.
The professionals on our peer perspectives website, Modern Marketing Leader, have all faced the frustration of an awkward integration with outside partners. For them, partner management issues stem from a central issue: your outside partners simply don’t know what you know about your business, your goals, and the context of your project.
That doesn’t mean your external partners aren’t capable. They bring tremendous expertise to the work they provide, but they may not translate your brand, message, and intentions the same way your internal team does. How can you narrow the gap between your internal and external teams?
Pulling Back the Curtain: Create a More Seamless Partner Relationship
For many organizations, the perception is that internal and external teams have to remain separate. External partners can help fill in gaps with one-off projects but shouldn’t really be privy to strategic insights.
We often think of external partners as tacticians. We want to keep our strategy to ourselves, then tell partners to develop their limited project. With that model, we’re likely to get a project that makes little sense because it’s not in a relevant context. Partners need more information about goals and strategy to infuse their work with the meaning that you expect.
It’s time to change that model. Contractors and agencies can help with one-off jobs and limited projects. No problem. But when you allow them to have a deeper understanding of your strategic and organizational goals, you get better results.
When we treat partners as an extension of our team, we get vastly better results. Agency partners bring both broad and deep knowledge they’ve accumulated across a variety of experiences and lengthy careers, and with the proper integration, will truly add value to your project—and the overall goals of your team.
How can you find a partner that you can create this kind of relationship with?
Keep a few key considerations in mind as you vet potential agency partners.
Start with what you know about them. Research your partner and be sure you know that their experience and capabilities apply to the work you need them to do. Talk to references and be sure they have a proven track record. Check their certifications.
Look beyond the basics. What else can they do for you, if needed, during this project or after it’s complete? Can they not only build a website, but also provide the CX and design? Can they assist with migrating content or writing new content? Can they adapt your content to new formats such as video—or help you build a podcast?
Be open to fresh insights. The best partners are those that not only engage deeply with your brand and organization but are able to actively seek and offer you new opportunities. When they onboard with you, do they want to learn about your goals not just for this campaign, but how this campaign supports your goals for the next quarter, and the next year? Are they willing to help you evaluate multiple courses of action? And are they knowledgeable enough to make informed recommendations that will be both effective and cost-efficient to help you meet your objectives?
When you find that versatile, engaged partner, don’t keep them at arm’s length. Instead, take advantage of the experience and perspective they can offer.
When you find a great partner, stick with them!
Maybe you need a new website but then realize that your messaging needs a refresh. Maybe you need to keep the old website and give it new life. Maybe you need technical fixes. Maybe you need more bandwidth for writing, editing, scripting, filming, and producing content for your campaigns. Maybe you need an outside perspective to evaluate current programs—and suggest strategies for the items on your bucket list.
Whatever your need, integrating your outside partners in a way that makes them a true part of your team offers exponential benefits. That outside partner is not there to replace your internal team—and they never will. But because they know you and care, they’ll work to ensure your team’s success.
Treat your external partners like an extension of your internal team, and you’ll get the best from them.
Simplify Partner Management Issues
Ideal partners are those you can turn to time and time again—who can help you with ongoing efforts, execute big programs and small jobs, and support you as your career as a marketing leader grows. Get to know the experts at Refactored and discover the benefit of an engaged partner.
Please also visit Modern Marketing Leader and connect with our partners, who contributed their time and resources to make the site happen.