How creative agencies can supercharge your marketing

Tips on how to work with creative agencies and why it makes a difference in your marketing.

Why do most credit unions handle their marketing in-house? Hiring an agency isn’t expensive but it seems that time to market is not afforded to many credit union marketing teams and the cost justification heavily influences a marketer’s decision on bringing in external talent and assistance.

Having an agency allows you to bring in a fresh perspective. Not only will your credit union benefit from an external perspective, you’re also gaining access to a creative group of thinkers who have usually been exposed to several industries. Since the marketplace is becoming crowded and competitive, having that extra advantage on your competition can go a long way if you approach your marketing with a blended mindset.

Getting buy-in from your marketing team

A common challenge facing a head of marketing when hiring an agency is resistance from the internal marketing team. An outside agency can be seen as a threat or a replacement to the work your team has been executing. Taking the time to explain why you’re considering bringing in an agency will go a long way before you even go through the search process.

Helping your executive team understand

The leadership team typically sees creative agencies as a temporary model. “We’re just using them to push out this branding campaign, right? Can you only use them for your video/TV production? Why can’t we do all of our marketing in-house?” We’ve all heard the pushback and cost questions.

It’s important for the executive team to realize that today’s marketing involves a much broader set of skills, and many credit unions don’t have all these skills internally. Talk to your team about how you need expertise for the specialized areas of marketing, such as programmatic ad buying, contextual retargeting, paid search, and negotiating and purchasing media, all of which are separate areas of expertise, roles and disciplines.

Educate them on how marketing can ebb and flow and how the traditional hiring model doesn’t apply to today’s marketing. It’s less expensive to hire an agency for certain areas compared to hiring permanent employees. You can also expand and contract with an agency — when you’re very busy, they absorb the work of those additional hires and when demand is slower, you simply don’t have work to send them for that particular timeframe.

Don’t think hiring an agency means you can sit back and let them do all the work.

How to hire an agency

Write a brief on why you’re hiring an agency and what your needs are. Be focused and determine what your needs are. You need to think about how the agency will supplement your existing efforts and how you’re going to utilize their services.

Don’t conduct an online search. Instead, ask your peers for recommendations, and talk to your existing vendors. If you’re working on a larger project, writing an RFP is the best way to start. While that may seem formal, you’ll be clearer about what your credit union needs and what you expect from the agency. Always obtain a minimum of three to six quotes or scopes for an RFP. -These will help keep you accountable and avoid missed steps in your project.

Okay, so you have internal buy-in and you’ve hired the agency. Now what?

Onboarding an agency

The agency cannot make guesses about your credit union. Most vendors outside of the credit union industry don’t understand what a credit union is and what differentiates credit unions from banks and other financial services.

It’s up to you to educate them and get them up to speed on any regulatory restrictions and existing brand architecture your organization has in place today. I find taking the time to write our own creative briefs and review those with our partners helps frame the project or program we’re looking to execute. The more time you put in, the more successful your work with the agency will be.

Sometimes it will seem as if you’re doing too much to onboard the agency or contractor, but  that upfront education and time will pay you dividends in the end. Think of the agency or contractor as an extension of your business.

Establishing Processes

Like all vendor relationships, it takes time to shape and mold the relationship. Establishing processes, regular meetings and being available will help you set everyone up for success. Always set a budget and stick to it – be clear and prescriptive on what you have set aside regardless of contract work or agency. If you’re not sure how to estimate costs, then reach out to local firms to explore hourly rate costs. By utilizing those numbers and estimating time spent, you should be able to forecast costs.

With these tips, you’re now armed to get out there and work with an agency. Remember to address your internal teams first and ensure you have buy-in. Using agencies can aid in filling in those gaps where you might not need a full-time person or when you don’t have the talent in-house to execute certain types of programs. It does take time, and in the end you’ll be in a strong position and have more resources in place to aid your credit union’s marketing efforts.

Wendy Beswick

Wendy Beswick

Wendy Beswick is an award-winning executive with 20 years' experience in Fortune 100 financial companies and credit unions. Prior to joining Service Credit Union as VP-Marketing, she oversaw retail operations ... Web: www.servicecu.org Details

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