Let your agency do what they do best

SUMMARY: There are some excellent digital agencies dedicated to pharma. Greater-Than-One and InTouch Solutions are just a couple. Agencies have experience in leading and developing cutting-edge digital pharma marketing solutions, but they need your help to really be effective.

Agencies should never be considered vendors; they are your marketing partners. Every effort should be made to integrate them into your brand team fully. They need to understand the level of digital expertise within your team and help you “sell” digital solutions that drive brand objectives.

When you have decided on an agency partner, you’ll want to know who your primary contact will be. In the early stages of this relationship, you’ll want to brief them on potential obstacles and key influencers that need to brought up to speed on digital marketing trends.

When I hired my digital agencies on a huge launch, I spoke to them every day via IM. I really got to know my key account contacts, and they got to know me. Together we would strategize different tactics and decide which ones would exceed brand objectives and think outside the box.

I also reviewed my agencies every quarter. It usually was a short meeting but I gave them feedback in what they did well and where there was room for areas improvement. Unless you chose a bad agency nothing should come as a surprise during this meeting.

One of the most significant issues that I witnessed happened with our off-line agency. The key account person, who we all liked very much, decided suddenly to quit and travel the world. My DTC manager was distraught, and frankly, it damaged our agency relationship beyond repair.

I am also a big believer in setting clear and concise agency metrics. They shouldn’t have to wonder if they are doing a good job. Agency metrics should be both quantitative and qualitative. Keep in mind that these metrics are AGENCY metrics, not program metrics. For example, how they respond to turn around time on a project is an agency metric. The metrics for an online advertising program are not.

The biggest mistake, where I am often caught in the middle, is when agencies recommend specific digital initiative executions. The client rejects them only to be disappointed with the results. Obviously, the agency is not going to point fingers, but it puts them in a challenging situation.

Earlier this year, a client asked me to review their product website. As I probed a little more, I found that they had been disappointed with online metrics. When I talked to the agency, which developed the website, I found they had run into budget issues in developing the site. Their PowerPoint deck, which they sent me, indicated a great process to create the site, but they couldn’t use it because the DTC Director didn’t see the value. In this case, it was a failure of both the client and agency to communicate expectations fully.

The right agency will execute your strategy; a great agency will force you to think of new directions to really exceed your brand expectations and, in the process, make you a hero. They will send you updated information on what’s happening around the web and why they will separate hype from reality.

A wrong agency will do what they have to do to get paid. They are only interested in covering their overhead and tend to be task-driven. They can be a weakness in your marketing, and you might not find out till it’s too late.

There is so much happening right now in digital marketing that it’s hard to separate the hype from what really might work with your brand. Good agencies will push back when they think you’re wasting money.

Agencies have years of experience. Let them leverage their expertise and allow them to really become part of your brand team.