The Keys to Successful Marketing Collaboration

2014 February Whitepaper

The idea of a single supplier handling all of a business’s marketing needs is a thing of the past. In today’s world of multi-channel marketing, it takes a village—or at least a team of seasoned partners—to support your multi-pronged strategy. From navigating the digital scene to conceptualizing and producing visual communications materials, the scope of work requires more specialized expertise than ever before. And while collaborating with others can be a challenge, the right partner can actually simplify the process while helping to elevate the final product.

For instance, at Image360 - Middle River, MD our team of highly experienced professionals is adept at working with in-house and agency marketing personnel to deliver visual communications solutions that work with a company’s overall strategy. As experts on interior and exterior graphics and displays, we can step in at all stages of the process, from design to production and everything in between. And the beauty is that these opportunities can range from a la carte projects to larger, multi-component initiatives, ensuring that marketing teams can use partners like Image360 - Middle River, MD in the most effective ways possible.

Why Outsource?

It can be scary to look outside the trusted resources of an internal team, and some businesses shy away from hiring outside help. But doing so can mean efficiencies beyond simple dollars and cents (though cost savings can happen as well). “As advertisers continually require new media expertise, with both traditional and ever-growing digital channels to connect with consumers, many have increased the number of agencies to manage their communications.”[i]

Mike Drexler, managing partner at a media consulting firm in New York City, wrote, “Today, creating winning campaigns for advertisers often requires real collaboration. Yet rarely is there someone from the holding company, or a single agency, responsible for choreographing all multiple agency functions…I believe this is why weve seen a spike in recent months of ‘project work’ or ‘assignments’ given out to shops rather than agency-of-record relationships.”[ii]

The reasons for engaging outside firms can vary depending on the makeup of the team and the needs of the hiring organization at a given time.

Work overflow

Agencies and in-house marketing departments are often stretched to the limit. “Marketing and brand managers across all industries have a longer to-do list than ever before. Consider the addition of social media, Web and content marketing, and SEO to their responsibilities—not to mention traditional tasks such as advertising and media relations. Imagine today’s marketing pros as orchestra conductors: How can they choose the right musicians and then manage the talent to create beautiful music?”[iii]

The answer is often by engaging with other professionals to help share the burden. By pulling certain elements out of the equation for them, they can focus on what needs to be done by the core team and then assign certain responsibilities to a competent visual communications firm that specializes in those types of projects. The result is a more efficient way of doing business. “Responsiveness can be increased through economies of scale and availability of more resources.”[iv]

And the addition of competent resources means the entire project can be elevated to the next level and new initiatives can begin.

Special projects

Any marketing team knows that to be successful is to be innovative. That’s why quality creative teams are always pushing to accomplish the next big thing. Utilizing outside firms for help with special projects can ease the workflow during the peak of the frenzy to ensure that deadlines are met. “Fixed costs in people, systems, and facilities often account for the largest portion of a marketing budget. Marketing organizations need to quickly adapt to sudden changes in customer demographics and markets, as well as to take advantage of immediate opportunities. As such, those functions or projects that can be outsourced create a greater overall level of flexibility.”[v]

From brand launches and upcoming trade shows to new store openings and interior design refreshes, visual communications firms are highly skilled in navigating graphics projects at all stages. “Increased capacity and expertise means that more can be achieved for less.”[vi] With an outside resource engaged in the process, those major projects that require an increased commitment to get the work done aren’t as far off as they may seem.

In need of expertise

Not all marketing teams have the depth to handle all elements of graphics work, from concept to execution. Perhaps a team has a dynamite creative staff but lacks the production experience to skillfully produce table wraps or branded wallpaper.  Maybe the team has never installed exterior signage before, or has limited experience with three-dimensional displays.

“Effective marketing organizations require a wide range of expertise. A typical group may include strategists, analysts, auditors, technologists, product specialists, communications professionals, creatives, brand managers, event organizers, e-commerce experts, advertising specialists, telemarketers, copywriters, alliance managers, and the occasional Webmaster. Let’s face it: There are times when some of those professionals are unavailable or an area is inadequately staffed.”[vii]

This isn’t unusual…and it isn’t a problem. Fortunately, experts are out there, and for these one-time projects, it’s well worth it to engage with them.

“You can’t necessarily compile a team with expertise in all relevant areas. An alternative is enlisting multiple specialized agencies. Small firms are comfortable collaborating with a variety of partners. They don’t structure themselves to be everything to everyone, so small firms frequently team up with other agencies to offer multi-dimensional programs.”[viii]

It’s not always bad to be an outsider. Even the most functional teams can benefit from an outside perspective, receiving fresh insight and learning new, and potentially more productive, ways of doing things.

Further, external consultants are experts at what they do, and they bring this to the table when they approach a new project. “The experience gained supporting many companies is key to deriving best practices…Engaging an expert provides immediate access to expert people and institutional knowledge that can be transferred immediately.”[ix]

Path to Success

Clearly collaboration offers significant benefits, but it can be tricky to manage. While effective information-sharing can mitigate a host of problems that can occur when everyone isn’t on the same page, there are other steps you can take to ensure not just a favorable outcome, but an enjoyable process.

Do your homework

Not all visual communications firms are created equal. Ask the right questions to find out the key elements of their services, and request references. “Choose agencies willing to coordinate with others. Though it’s hard to fathom that a small, specialized firm doesn’t already regularly work collaboratively with other agencies, some are better at this than others. When determining which to hire, ask the reps at each firm about their multi-agency success stories.”[x]

Establish needs from the get-go

The time to set expectations is at the very start of a project. According to Nick Dean of KBS+ Toronto, “There needs to be a clear definition of roles and responsibilities stated at the outset of the relationship.”[xi]

To do this, it is essential that stakeholders take time to get it all down on paper. “Give the agencies a brief that outlines clear business objectives, pertinent information about the brand DNA, existing marketing efforts, and goals for each agency. For increased accountability, take the time to define success, including deliverables for each company…In order to get the most out of each agency, make sure you define a clear process for how you’d like the companies’ teams to work together. You should clarify the roles, expectations, and responsibilities of each agency.”[xii]

The ultimate goal is a product that all involved contributed to and are proud of…and that can lead to future opportunities. “If the roles and the integrity of the partnership are clear and respectfully upheld, the agencies can feel comfortable that their collaboration won’t lead to a compromised position or a potential vulnerability that could lead to a loss of future business.”[xiii]

Use the right tools

With technology, the ability to collaborate is easier than ever…provided the available tools are used effectively. “Communication, collaboration and efficiency should be a part of the initial conversation when marketers and agency partners discuss how to best work together to create successful campaigns and value-added project assets. When collaboration tools are used, efficiencies and productivity have a profound impact on the team’s ability to meet aggressive goals.”[xiv]

There are a lot of tools to choose from, but some of the basics can provide an adequate foundation. “Nowadays the ‘cloud’ enables multiple agencies to easily coordinate efforts. Tap into Google Docs, Dropbox, Skype meetings, your company’s intranet, and other online resources.”[xv] Project management-specific tools like Basecamp can further enhance collaboration, with the ability to assign to-dos and collect support documentation in one place.

Recognize successes and failures

Any marketing project is going to have twists and turns, highs and lows. These moments need to be shared among the key teams. “If something isn’t working, this should be addressed directly and immediately… Trust will only come through open, honest and transparent dialogue amongst the partners.”[xvi]

The same goes for the other side. In addition to addressing mistakes in an effort to correct action and learn from the experience, it is critical that the team—including all groups working together—also recognize its achievements. “Bring the team together to celebrate successes.”[xvii] The shared accomplishments that come with the completion of the project will be all the sweeter—and just may lead to future collaboration.

Read More

[i] Ad Age, How Can True Agency Collaboration Be Achieved? Via a Financial Incentive Program,

[ii] Ad Age, How Can True Agency Collaboration Be Achieved? Via a Financial Incentive Program,

[iii] PR Daily, How cross-agency collaboration can enhance your marketing,

[iv] Learning Pool, Five Benefits and Five Challenges of Collaborative Working,

[v], 10 Reasons To Outsource More Of Your Marketing,

[vi] Learning Pool, Five Benefits and Five Challenges of Collaborative Working,

[vii], 10 Reasons To Outsource More Of Your Marketing,

[viii] PR Daily, How cross-agency collaboration can enhance your marketing,

[ix], 10 Reasons To Outsource More Of Your Marketing,

[x] PR Daily, How cross-agency collaboration can enhance your marketing,

[xi] Marketing, How to Have a Happy Agency Marriage,

[xii] PR Daily, How cross-agency collaboration can enhance your marketing,

[xiii] Marketing, How to Have a Happy Agency Marriage,

[xiv] STREAM CREATIVE BLOG, 4 Online Tools to Help Marketing Departments & Agencies Work Efficiently,

[xv] PR Daily, How cross-agency collaboration can enhance your marketing,

[xvi] Marketing, How to Have a Happy Agency Marriage,

[xvii] PR Daily, How cross-agency collaboration can enhance your marketing,


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