Best Digital Productivity Tools for Marketers

If you work in marketing, you probably feel bombarded by all the digital tools promising to make you more productive. And who hasn’t fallen for the charms of the so-called "best digital productivity tools"? Sometimes, there’s nothing as attractive as the possibility of being more organized, on schedule and on top of details.

But how do you know what’s right for you and your business? We’ve been asking ourselves and our clients that question. And the answer comes down to what you need your digital productivity tools to do. For instance, let’s say you need to…

Manage Projects

If you have to keep an eye on multiple projects at a time, you can probably benefit from a project management tool (e.g., Teamwork, Asana, Slack and Trello). We use Teamwork at Relish because it encourages collaboration, enables asset sharing, helps us allocate time and resources across projects, integrates with our email and billing system, and maps well to our workflow processes. Rochelle Valsaint, Brand and Communications Manager at the Lenbrook senior living community, relies on Asana for similar reasons. Regardless of the project management tool you chose, make sure it includes a calendar, a way of tracking changes between multiple collaborators, and the ability to integrate with your mission-critical applications and work processes.

Create and distribute social content

Like email and the web before it, social media has gone from novelty to an essential component of the overall communications landscape – and it must be part of any marketing strategy. Karen Wilcox, Interim Marketing Director at Taylor English, affirms, "Reporters follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter – and often, that's how they want to connect. And, the talent we represent in our entertainment area is on Instagram and Facebook.” She adds that social media is equally important for her firm’s employer branding. “Millennials are the next generation of legal associates. And if we want them to come on board, we’ve got to be on social media.” With so many different messages and audiences, Hootsuite helps Wilcox’s marketing team pre-load and schedule social posts, and better manage their time, content and cadence for posting.

You might think that the over-75 demographic isn’t on social media, but Valsaint says, “Seniors want the same things that younger generations do – to stay connected and informed, to see what their families and friends are doing, or to share adventures, like the trip to Africa one of our residents just took. There would be no way to keep our posts organized and on target if we didn’t plan ahead.” She and her team rely on Buffer to organize, schedule and post social content.

Connect with People on Your Mailing List

As prevalent as social media has become, newsletters, blogs and email are far from obsolete. Here at Relish, we use Sharpspring to help us manage and track our activity on those channels. At the same time, we’ve developed expertise in other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems ranging from Hubspot and Constant Contact to MailChimp and Salesforce because our clients use them. We’ve learned that all of these systems have different advantages. For instance, HubSpot and Salesforce are designed for large organizations with dedicated “power users” who manage List segmentation, reporting, tracking, and sophisticated content from multiple areas of the company. Other tools are simpler, allowing smaller businesses or teams to start for free (e.g., MailChimp), or pay-by-use (e.g., Constant Contact) as they learn the system’s capabilities.

Consolidate, Integrate and Keep Learning

Our Account Supervisor (and resident productivity junkie) Mia Johnson tells us, “Integration and consolidation enable automation. Consolidate tasks and content. Then integrate that with your communications, scheduling, resource management, billing, and other tools that matter to your business. The more you integrate, the more likely they are to be helpful.”

All of these tools are continually updated and improved – enabling some less expensive options to deliver powerful capabilities previously unique to the larger apps. Follow the companies whose systems interest you on social media – and consider joining one of their online user groups to stay on top of improvements that might make sense for your business.

Still not sure what digital systems make the most sense for you and your organization? Consider starting with sharable spreadsheets and documents (e.g., GoogleDrive or Microsoft OneDrive) which can offer a gateway to shared content and processes. Once you’re up and running with those, you will be able to gain a better sense of what deeper services and capabilities will make the greatest difference in your productivity.


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
Savor your brand. View our brand development client work. Work with us! Contact here.


Marketing budget 2019

Working on Your Marketing Budget? Here’s Some Help

What do you plan to spend on next year’s marketing?

If your answer is something like, “As little as we can get away with,” it’s probably going to cost you much more than it should. That’s because when companies don’t develop a realistic budget, one of two things tend to happen:

  1. Marketing efforts aren’t complete or consistent enough to generate results. So, not only are you out whatever money you do spend, you also lose revenues and results that could have been generated through a better focused marketing program.
  2. A flurry of last-minute marketing activity ensues, involving more outside assistance than would have been necessary with a realistic budget and plan, developed before the start of the year. Not to mention plenty of rush charges.

Sometimes, both things happen. And, we don’t like it any more than our clients do. Rushed, chaotic marketing projects are high stress, no fun, and much more expensive than they would have been with more proactive planning.

So, what should you plan to spend on next year’s marketing?

The classic rule says that everyone wants their marketing to be good, fast and inexpensive – pick any two of the three. Beyond that, we’d like to offer a few more substantial tips that have helped our clients:

Money: The amount of money you should spend on marketing depends on multiple factors, including your industry, the size of your business and what phase of growth you’re in. According to Gartner Research, most companies spend an average of 12 percent of their annual revenues on marketing (larger companies spend a little more, smaller businesses spend a little less). But this is hardly a number set in stone; companies engaged in active customer-facing and employer branding efforts often spend significantly more. So, how much should your business spend? If you followed the recommendations we outlined in the third post in this series, you’ve already identified specific goals that you want to achieve – as well as tactics to achieve them. Is this the year when you’ll update or launch a new website? Launch a new product? Hire 20 new executives? Whatever your goals, use them to measure the cost of developing materials and the support you’ll need to achieve them.

Time: How much time should it take to develop a brand update? A new website? Sales support for that new product? Employer branding activity to attract the right new talent? Clearly, these things don’t happen overnight. That said, arbitrary, long-term deadlines can be equally problematic if marketing program components can get put off while seemingly “more urgent” projects get attention – until suddenly, “plenty of time” becomes the 11th hour. Set realistic deadlines based on specific needs, then define milestones and tasks to achieve them. Likewise, do your homework to determine how long it should take to get the quality you want. A magic wand that can instantly turn ideas in your head into tangible, measurable marketing does not exist (although, if you happen to have such a thing, we need to talk right away).

Resources: Do your internal staff members have the time and ability to develop and execute every component of next year’s marketing plan without any outside help? Probably not. But many of our clients have excellent project management skills as well as the ability to supervise a budget and work with an outside creative team. Some of our clients have internal content development or graphics expertise. Ask yourself: How much of what needs to be accomplished falls within your team members’ existing responsibilities, and how much bandwidth do your people have to handle it? Determine where your in-house capabilities will be most effective and what skill sets and services can be best handled by an outside expert.

Don’t be afraid to ask for some advice from a marketing expert, either.  Most of us are pleased to offer a general sense of what you can expect to allocate for specific types of initiatives. More granular numbers usually require deeper research — but may be worth the cost of a few hours of a marketing consultant’s time. Either way, we encourage you to read our entire end-of-year Jumpstart series – including posts about brand planning, brand execution and maximizing your digital presence.

We wish you a new year full of health and prosperity – for you, as well as for your business.

 


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
Savor your brand. View our client work. Work with us! Contact here.


digital marketing relish 2019

5 Ways to Maximize Your Digital Marketing ROI

With your brand plans and brand execution strategies ready to go, you’re probably thinking about how to maximize your digital marketing ROI – which impacts everything from your credibility to your profitability. It’s not only where people find your business, it’s how they reach out to connect, explore your reputation, and even challenge and validate their own impressions of your brand. In short: the way you come across online can be the difference between maintaining status quo and generating significant results for your business. The question is, how do you make the most of it?

We’ve identified five things that successful online marketers do – which you can and should be doing right now — to maximize their digital marketing return on investment:

  1. SET GOALS. It sounds obvious, but too many companies launch websites, write blogs and post online without asking the right strategic questions about what they need to accomplish and choosing the right tactics for success. For instance, if you want to increase sales, look not only at your eCommerce capabilities but also at how you can better capture customers’ attention at each stage of their buying process. Do you need to improve brand recognition? Make sure your brand identity is consistent and consider an online ad campaign.
  1. DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE(S). Most businesses do this at a basic level, but it’s important to remember that every audience is comprised of real people not just their companies and titles/responsibilities — and that you may have audiences beyond your customers (How about potential employees? Current employees? Investors?). Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Do the people you need to reach tend to be male or female? How young/old are they likely to be? What keeps them engaged in their jobs and what do they worry about? The answers to questions like these will get you beyond a simple, functional connection (“We use widgets; you sell widgets.”) to create messages that resonate and inspire (“We need your widgets”).
  1. IDENTIFY YOUR CHANNELS. When we talk about online presence, we mean more than just your website and LinkedIn page. Consider multiple social media platforms and how your audience uses each of them. Explore how your audience engages with you – and how they may want to engage with you. Are they checking email all day long? If so, an email marketing campaign may be the best way to reach them. Is your audience often on the go? Offering an online portal might seem adequate enough – but optimizing access for mobile devices and platforms would make your portal more useful – and a thoughtfully designed mobile app would make connecting with you even easier.
  1. BUILD A CALENDAR. We’ve written about the benefits of creating and maintaining a social media calendar — strategic alignment (connecting marketing and communications with corporate strategy and KPIs), relevance to predictable circumstances (holidays, industry conferences and events, predictable seasonal variations), messaging and cadence consistency (what to say and when to say it). But, these benefits should go beyond social media. If you downloaded our social media calendar template last year, now is the time to not only update it but also expand it to include website updates, online advertising, blog topics and direct messaging campaigns.
  1. DEFINE METRICS FOR SUCCESS. The great thing about online media is that you can make adjustments as you go to improve results over time. Which means you need metrics. If your goal is brand awareness, measure impressions (the number of times your brand is seen) and reach (the number of unique people who see your brand). Consideration campaigns typically focus on click-through rates (CTR – the number of times someone clicks on an ad or message to get to your website). And campaigns designed to improve engagement and sales require measurement of conversions (newsletter subscriptions, likes/follows, purchases, inbound emails, phone calls, etc.).

Together, these five steps can help you achieve the results your business needs — as well as a significant return on your investment in your online presence.

Keep your eyes open for our final post in our end-of-year series: Rules of thumb for establishing the right timing, budget and resources for next year’s marketing.

*We're recognized as a top Inbound Marketing Company on DesignRush


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
Savor your brand. View our client work. Work with us! Contact here.


Marketing Automation Blog

5 Reasons why marketing automation is important for your brand

As a process driven person, I am a strong believer in automation. Especially in today’s business environment – in which automation is everywhere – there is no question: Marketing automation is and will continue to be an essential building block of productivity for businesses across all industries. You may already know it is a critical part of any effective content marketing and new business development strategy. And businesses of virtually any size can benefit. After all, if you’re not managing your leads properly, you are wasting your sales and marketing resources, time, and money.

What, Exactly, is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is the use of software platforms that execute recurring marketing tasks such as publishing social media posts, sending out emails, getting client follow-up alerts, etc. without any manual effort. When implemented properly as part of your daily workflow and used strategically, marketing automation tools nurture prospects with helpful, personalized content that can convert leads into loyal customers and brand advocates.

Marketing Automation Can Help You:

1. Increase Efficiency

Traditional marketing tactics that force sales to make frequent phone calls and client visits can still drive business success – but marketing automation can make them more efficient. Once customers make a purchase, they are immediately added to the “customers” list in the automation platform. When inquiries are made on your website, they are immediately added to a “lead” list. As the system gathers more information about contacts, you can create a workflow that triggers specific actions at specific times, delivering automatic communications that feel customized. And, by automating repetitive sales operations processes, you can reduce costs and your sales team can spend less time hunting down leads, and more time pursuing qualified leads.

2. Personalize Communications

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the phase “content is king.” But don’t create content for content’s sake. Content is only king if it’s the right message, reaching the right person at the right time. Marketing automation allows you to adapt messages to match the specific needs of each customer. You can design content that corresponds to a lead’s behavior during the lead nurturing process, and schedule that content to be delivered in response to specific lead behavior. So, instead of resorting to interruptive ads, you can implement targeted messaging to an eager, willing audience.

3. Get Better Data (and make it work harder for you)

Marketing automation is an analytics goldmine because it enables you to collect and analyze customer data from multiple digital marketing channels. You already probably know that email makes it easy to track responses and acquire useful analytics, which then can be used to optimize subject lines, CTAs (call-to-actions), topics and much more. Marketing automation systems give you access to this info across all of your channels for all contacts on one, unified dashboard. This enables you to use historical consumer behavior data to improve your targeting. And better targeting means better conversion of leads.

4. LEADS, LEADS, LEADS

In the end, that’s what it’s all about. Marketing automation software provides an effective framework for nurturing leads. Many people who receive your emails and visit your website are actually interested in making a purchase from your company but are not ready to commit just yet. This could be due to a variety of reasons. Using your marketing automation system for lead nurturing can provide insights into what is holding up a purchase decision, then guide leads throughout the sales funnel until they are ready to buy. As busy as people are these days, many are unlikely to respond to cold calling and other traditional marketing approaches. So, your ability to respond to a lead and establish a relationship until they engage with the company’s products and services is essential. But, to provide that kind of personalized attention using traditional means would likely drain resources. Fortunately, marketing automation can help you. For example, leads who visit your landing page and fill out a form to receive more information can be sent a follow-up email almost immediately, as the form triggers an automated response to deliver content in a timely fashion.

Marketing automation also allows for lead scoring, in which the tool assigns each lead a given score/grade based on their behavior and interest in specific products and services. This gives your business the information needed to determine where the lead is in the sales funnel, including how likely a lead is to make a purchase. So, you can focus on hot leads rather than pursuing cold leads.

5. USE Those Leads

In addition to lead nurturing and scoring for existing clients and prospects, marketing automation can help you with lead generation and actionable insights. Marketing automation has important features that will enable marketers to analyze data and identify new resources for growth. For example, an analysis of incoming traffic to a company’s website can determine where the traffic originated as well as potential ways to tap into those opportunities. From there, you can track the performance of your new business development efforts, using your data to determine what works and what doesn’t. Armed with these insights, marketers can develop and implement campaigns with greater efficiency and effectiveness, all while deepening their knowledge of their target audience.

As you can see, I’m passionate about how marketing automation can help strategic, creative campaigns to generate results – as are all of us here at Relish Marketing. If you’ve been wondering about how marketing automation could help your business and improve your productivity, we’re ready to talk with you.


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
Savor your brand. View our client work. Work with us! Contact here.


Medical device branding

3 Keys to Better Medical Device Branding

Developing the right brand identity for your product is neither simple, nor is it a science. However, the right process will help ensure that time spent on the front end generates continual dividends over the life of your product line. A successful branding process can’t be outlined in one short blog post. However, as you evaluate potential partners to help guide your brand development, you should expect to be able to answer these questions (and they should be asking them!):

Know Your Purpose

If you ask 10 people within your organization about the purpose of your business and they respond with 10 different answers, you need to clarify your purpose. This is more than just the specific functions of any single device; it is your reason for being, the difference you make, and how your customers should feel about it. This is the core of your identity as a company and the solid foundation upon which your brand is built, informing logo design, messaging and your product name. Without it, your device could just as well be any product in the marketplace.

Know Your Audience(s)

You and your team can probably talk easily and at length about your device and why it’s exciting. But the key to developing the right brand identity is not why it’s exciting to you; it’s why your device should be compelling to buyers. Do you expect hospitals to buy it? If so, think about it in the context of the purchasing manager, or CFO, who are considering how your product will provide financial or operational benefits. Will doctors and/or clinicians use your product? If so, clearly communicate how it will make their lives easier. Put yourself in the position of your customers and users, or you may find yourself with little more than a solution in search of a problem.

Insist on Consistency

Within six months of putting your brand on every representation of your device – from your website and sales collateral to your packaging, presentations and other communications – you may find yourself getting a bit bored with it. In fact, you may decide it’s time to change or evolve your brand. Resist that temptation. About the time you’re starting to get bored, your customers are likely just beginning to grasp your brand. Don’t take that away from them. Remain true to your identity and insist that your entire team do so as well, so that your customers recognize and embrace your brand.

When you bring a full understanding of purpose, audience and consistency to the brand development table, you can help your marketing partner stay focused on what’s most important to your business, freeing them to develop the right approach to your new device launch.


Medical device branding

Why Branding Matters for Your Next Medical Device Launch

 

Launching a new product is a challenging undertaking with many factors leading up to the big reveal. You have to consider testing and pre-sales and final details of product design not to mention stringent compliance standards and complex sales channels involving physicians, clinicians, hospital executives, purchasers and consumers.[1]

With all these important pieces coming together, it would be easy to rush through your product branding process, assuming that a quick, attractive logo and name are all you need to move forward. Don’t make that mistake. Smart branding is often the difference that enables a successful launch and helps you to accomplish multiple important goals:

1. Differentiate Your Device and Organization

The medical device arena is a $390+ billion industry[2] that will only grow over the foreseeable future. Because of this, manufacturers can expect to see a continual increase in competition. Even with a specialized device, it can be difficult to rise above the noise of products competing to address similar issues. It’s essential to define a distinct brand, both for your product and your business overall.

2. Build Audience Interest and Trust

Medical devices are designed to do a specific job efficiently and effectively; they usually aren’t designed to have personality or inspire feelings of any kind. That’s where your brand comes in. Take your device from anonymity to a recognizable, relatable and trusted identity with a clear, consistent look, feel and message.

3. Generate Momentum for Future Launches

When you establish a consistent brand, audiences know exactly what to expect from it. Think about brands like Apple and Disney – you know that they stand for clean, cool innovation and magical, wholesome entertainment, respectively. Which means you know what to expect from their releases.[3] When customers buy into a brand, they are often ready to accept new offerings - even without knowing all the details. For healthcare devices, those details matter. But don’t discount the value of being a known quantity in the marketplace, recognized for specific, positive attributes. These attributes will serve your initial launch and will continue to build momentum with each new feature or addition to your product line.


[1] medtechengine.com/article/medical-device-testing/

[2] www.beckershospitalreview.com/supply-chain/10-medical-device-trends-for-2017.html

[3] www.linkedin.com/pulse/marketing-medical-devices-10-things-i-have-learned-pontus-rehn


Social media growth

4 Ways to Grow Your Social Media Prowess

People tend to think of social media as one-and-done efforts, posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn accounts because someone may enjoy it or find it useful. But, when you’re promoting a business, your social media should be more than that. It’s a way to reinforce your brand, as well as its relationship with your base of avid supporters. And it doesn’t happen by accident, which is why a robust social media strategy is important to help optimize your efforts.

Facebook Insights pageFacebook Insights page

Study Your Follower-base

Getting to know your friends and followers – your biggest advocates on social media – can start with the internal analytics dashboards for your social platforms (e.g., Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Analytics, etc). Social media platforms provide these tools to give power-users basic data on interactions: reshares, likes, clicks, top posts, reach, views, and more. Study this information and find out how your followers react to different styles of posts. Are they sharing them with their friends? What types of posts are most popular? Who really loves your products and why?

Google Analytics Social Engagement pageGoogle Analytics Social Engagement page

Another layer of insights is available through Google. Google Analytics can show you how your fan base links to your web site, what pages they land on, and how this is affecting engagement on your website (i.e. increase in form submissions, or quiz completions). From there, you can ask and answer important questions: Why are more people finding you through LinkedIn than Facebook? Or are StumbleUpon or Google+ where your fans hang out? And why do you get more hits through Instagram than Twitter?

Engage with Your Influencers

Each social media platform has different strengths, and certain people on each one can improve your business’s popularity. While some organizations employ pop celebrities on social media, you should also consider bloggers, YouTube users, and Insta-stars to be important influencers for your brand. Find your biggest fans. Invite them to do more business with you. Offer them a discount for posting a shout-out. And use tools like BuzzSumo, Traackr, Upfluence and Hootsuite to identify and maintain relationships with your most influential followers. These tools can provide extremely robust information for evaluating demographics of fans and followers, and for analyzing their engagement (basic date, buzzwords, competitors, content types, trends, etc).

Don’t Forget Your Own Employees

Your employees make a difference in your social media efforts, too. Make sure they are part of your fan base, and encourage them to post about everything from improvements you’re making to expansion efforts and special promotions. Our client, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, distributes a bi-weekly, internal e-newsletter that shares public posts related to product advancements and key achievements. The newsletter encourages employees to like and share these posts within their social networks, enabling a publicly visible, highly engaged employee culture.

Your employees can also help you promote a positive employer brand by publicly sharing some of the good times they have at work. However, a well-defined social media policy should clarify and guide choices about what kinds of posts are and are not appropriate. Generally speaking, the rule should be to air grievances privately and share joys publicly. And of course, special tools like DynamicSignal and sprinklr can help you track and manage employee engagement on social media.

Follow the Money

The true test of your business’s social media popularity often comes down to sales. You may have hundreds of thousands of followers who wish your business well, but that won’t affect your bottom line. So, track your posts with an eye toward answering more important questions: Who is sharing, what are they sharing, where are they sharing and why? Which posts increased traffic to your web site? Which ones correlated with increased sales? And how can you replicate positive results?

Your ability to know your friends and followers, to demonstrate that you care about what they want, and to connect with them is as essential to your business relationships as it is to your personal relationships. Develop ways to engage followers, pay attention to which social media outlets are most useful to your business and focus on them. If you follow these best practices, you will do more than just strengthen your social media policy. You will improve brand recognition, engage employees, strengthen relationships with customers and ultimately, improve business results.


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward.
Savor your brand. View our client work. Work with us! Contact here.


Lenbrook Digital Brochure

Project Spotlight: Lenbrook Digital Brochure Content Design

A New Digital Brochure for Lenbrook, Atlanta’s only Nationally Accredited Continuing Care Life Plan Community

 

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Getting older doesn’t mean you stop living! Lenbrook, Atlanta’s only nationally accredited Continuing Care Life Plan Community, has for more than 33 years enabled their residents to enjoy independence, good health and personal fulfillment to the fullest extent possible through the many housing options, wellness services and resident activities provided as part of The Lenbrook Difference.

The senior living brand requested Relish to create a digital brochure to bring to life the amenities and benefits offered at the upscale community.

Lenbrook Accredited CARF

Solution

What better way to speak to seniors and families planning for their loved ones than by using vibrant lifestyle photos, direct response content, and pops of color? For the content of the brochure, Lenbrook provided lead targeted messaging and Relish used lifestyle photography pulled from a previous shoot.

The design Relish created matched Lenbrook’s brand along with other collateral to tell the Lenbrook story and engage prospective residents by showing every reason why Lenbrook should be their new home. The goal: Imagine what it’s like to live at Lenbrook.   

Lenbrook Services & Amenities

Results

The digital brochure has become a key resource used by the Lenbrook’s internal sales team as a lead engagement tool. It’s a brand asset that’s now part of Lenbrook’s arsenal of digital tools that can be leveraged for future digital campaigns, email roll outs and in-person presentations.

Lenbrook Location

Project Services - BRAND | DESIGN | CONTENT | ONLINE

 


At Relish Marketing, our fusion of creative and strategy unlocks your brand and propels it forward. Savor your brand. View our brand development client work. Work with  us! Contact here.

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more value from marketing agency

5 Ways to Get More Value from Your Marketing Agency

Whether you’re about to start working with a marketing agency for the first time or you have a partner you’ve worked with for years, clients want to know that they’re getting the greatest value for their investment. After years of working with a variety of clients, we’ve learned that there are things you can do to make it easier for your agency to stay focused on what’s most important – delivering impactful creative that generates results and keeping your projects moving smoothly forward on time and within budget. Here’s how:

1.  Plan! This may seem obvious, but we’re often amazed by how many clients seem eager to rush through this step. Take time to work through a detailed creative brief, including objectives, audience insights, key messages, content and graphics that must be included, brand guidelines and any issues to avoid. Define the schedule and set progress milestones, including buffers so you can accommodate the unexpected. Define roles and responsibilities so that both you and your agency know what to expect from each other. In other words, make time up front to answer the question, “What do you want to achieve?” Spend time on this at the beginning and you won’t waste time later.

2.  Be honest and up-front about your budget. Once, I asked a client how much he was willing to allocate for an upcoming project and his answer was, “I won’t tell you.” Confused, I asked why and he said, “If I tell you how much money is in my budget, you’re going to spend it!” I smiled and told him that yes, this was true – we would do the very best work possible for whatever dollar amount he gave us. If you’re trying to save money, say so – a smart agency will find creative ways to help you do it, or advise you when your goals outpace your budget. At the same time, remember that your creative partner will also help you identify and validate opportunities for a larger expenditure to deliver a much greater return on investment.

3.  Communicate. Many businesses look to their agencies to spare them from the minutiae of minute-by-minute project details. At the same time, expect your agency to keep you informed about key milestones and project development. You should always feel comfortable picking up the phone to ask how a project is going. And you should expect to participate in regular calls and status reports to make sure that everyone is meeting your expectations, staying within budget and using resources as effectively as possible.

4.   Let the agency make your job easier. Say your agency is developing a new website, but ultimately, you’re going to be responsible for updates and new content. Or the agency is creating an initial sales presentation that your biz dev team will customize in key places. Your agency should work these expectations into their deliverables. Designs should include templates that make customization easy – but keep standard graphic elements secure. And this kind of “make the client’s job easier” thinking goes beyond materials that your internal team will edit. For example, you are launching a video series, with new segments added over time. The agency can create modules that make it easier to edit in new components without having to reinvent common graphics every time. This saves both time and money.

5.  Stay the course AND let your agency help you adapt. This actually is not conflicting advice. Plans exist to ensure that everyone knows what should happen, who should do it and when it will be done. Plans keep creative, budgetary and timing expectations aligned with reality. And, in a perfect world (i.e. never), all plans would be chiseled in stone.

In our real world, a new stakeholder may come on board after work has begun on a project. The date of a major meeting moves up a week. A new industry regulation is announced. A product is recalled. Changes do happen – and you stand a better chance of thriving amidst change when you keep your agency informed and in the loop. As soon as new circumstances arise, be honest about what’s driving them and their implications.

These five steps will certainly help you and your agency keep projects on time, on message, on strategy, and on budget. Equally important, they will help you strengthen your partnership with a team that can help you advance and achieve your goals and your organization’s broader objectives, as well.