by Mike Fleming
For many businesses, a major benefit of outsourcing their web marketing strategy to a company like ours is the fact that they get the knowledge and skill of a whole Web marketing team for what most of the time amounts to the cost of one (maybe two) employees. Depending on the nature of the business, that can be hard to beat. But, along with it comes a challenge - communication. We fought with this hard for a while. We sat in meetings and brainstormed realistic ways to communicate better with clients while balancing the hours we spend doing this with formulating and implementing strategies to get results.
Proactive Communication From Agencies
Like a lot of client-agency relationships, clients pay for a certain number of hours, and we use those hours to try to maximize their results. Clients, as many of you know, don't always have a sense of how the amount of time they purchase is used because they're not tracking it. But, of course, we do because we're accountable to use that time wisely enough to ensure fair results for their investment. With this kind of pressure and time being limited, the temptation exists to spend all available time on strategy and recommendations while leaving out time to closely communicate about the relationship, condition of the client's company, insights into results, clarification on recommendations, etc.
Our experience has been that simply feeding recommendations without having discussions is sub-optimal for getting results. First, because companies don't fully understand many recommendations (which is why we're here, right?), they fail to grasp the importance of implementing them. When we email or add this to a spreadsheet - "You need to get rid of duplicate content on your site here, here and here" - they don't take the implementation quite as seriously as when you talk to them about it and stress why it should be done and the consequences of not doing it (especially if you can communicate in dollars lost). For example, we had a client roll out a brand new site and ignore all the recommendations we gave them. And they paid us for those recommendations! Needless to say, their results suffered.
Second, without regular communication, companies get distracted by lower priority items. We make critical recommendations to their search marketing strategy, and nothing happens. So, regular communication has helped us provide not only strategy, but also accountability. Our discussions allow us to regularly update them on their implementation progress. Regular communication seems to encourage action.
Communication Helps Get Results
What we've seen from this is a huge uptick in client activity for their campaigns, and results have improved. The point? With the time we have, we were worried about taking away from analysis, strategy and recommendations in favor of communicating more. But, it seems that the overall ROI has been there. Our recent experiences have communicated to me that communication is almost -if not just as - important as analyzing, formulating and implementing strategy for results.
Proactive Communication From Clients
On the flip side, if financially more advantageous to your company to outsource your Web marketing campaigns, you need to know that there's ROI for you to also be proactive in your communication. Your agency is analyzing, strategizing and making recommendations based upon what they know about your business. If they aren't on site daily, naturally their knowledge is going to be limited. While it is their job to learn about you, there are many things they just may not think of to ask. Also, what about changes in the life of your business as time rolls on? I'll give you an example.
I run PPC campaigns for a client, and I was starting a new ad test. One of the most important factors in buying this client's product is the speed at which the customer will receive the product if they order online. So, my new ad's headline said, "Product - Fast." About a week after I started the ad test, it comes to my attention through a co-worker that they were out of the product! The thing is, we initiated the conversation. If we wouldn't have, we likely would not have known about the situation. I had sent the information about the test to the client with the new headline but never heard back from them about their situation with the product. Needless to say, customers weren't exactly going to get the product fast.
So as business owners/executives, you must remember to communicate the goings-on of your business with your outside team. You're paying them. If you don't communicate, you are just wasting a portion of your own money.
Communication is an Investment
Bottom line: communication is important in ALL our relationships in life, personal and professional. The #1 cause of conflict in relationships is misunderstanding. It causes unnecessary fractures in relationships that don't need to be fractured. Don't think of communication as an inconvenience that slows things down, but rather as an investment in getting good results.
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