“Getting the whole team together in the same boat has been key to our work. When the entire team is sitting around the same table, there is no competition, no prestige, no misunderstandings, only a focus on the same shared goals. How do we reach our goals in the most efficient way? By being part of the same cross-agency team, there have been shorter lead times for briefings and fewer bottlenecks regarding inbox attention. Deliveries have become fast and we have been able to become more agile overall.” – Anna Calmerskog, CRM & Loyalty Manager at McDonald’s Nordic
Does it feel like your agencies speak different languages and operate on different frequencies? Do you find yourself wasting valuable time in coordination and alignment meetings between partners? In a world ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, the elimination of inefficiencies and the optimisation of results is more important than ever. Companies cannot afford to sustain the inefficiencies caused by a siloed portfolio of partners. Recognising this challenge early on, Avaus set out to develop principles for a leaner, more efficient way of working called the “Cross-Agency Collaboration Model”.
The world of marketing and sales has undergone significant changes over the past decade. Barriers are being torn down between once siloed functions, and new technologies are changing the game. All the while, customers are expecting an increasingly coherent omnichannel customer experience. This changing landscape brings the need for new skills, and companies find themselves dealing with a range of specialist partners to help provide them.
However, managing a portfolio of digital partners brings its own set of unique challenges. A large portfolio of partner agencies specialising in different pieces of the digital puzzle will inevitably create unhelpful barriers and inefficiencies. In some cases, inter-agency friction can also result in counter-productive antagonism and sluggish cooperation – the indirect cost of which is borne by the client company.
Avaus recommends putting in place a cross-agency model to alleviate this complexity. The model is based on simple principles that enable a leaner, more efficient and open way-of-working between the agencies involved in orchestrating your digital customer experiences. Consider these seven tips to get you started:
1. “GETTING EVERYONE TO THE TABLE”
Establish a Cross-Agency Forum – get started by ensuring that all key parties gather around the same table. A dedicated cross-agency forum, chaired by the client, should involve key experts from each agency and be held at regular intervals. Find a schedule that works best for your business – the key is to have all parties working at the same tempo. Active coordination is required to get this cross-agency forum off the ground. The task of coordinating it should fall to one of the partner agencies unless a dedicated ‘agency manager’ can be assigned.
2. “SLICING UP THE PIZZA”
Carefully define responsibility areas – the first task of the Cross-Agency Forum is to clarify roles, responsibilities and mandates. This is essential in order to minimise natural inter-agency competition, remove uncertainty and define what is expected from each party. Strong guidance is expected from the client to ensure that each partner agency is focused on completing the task at hand and not manoeuvring for individual advantage. Establishing a partner portfolio that minimises overlap in expertise will make this process easier. At the end of this step, each partner agency should have a clear understanding of their areas of responsibility. Extending beyond one’s mandate should only happen at the request of the client.
3. “A SHARED MISSION”
Assign shared objectives & KPIs – the next task is to assign shared objectives and KPIs. This is essential since shared objectives ensure that the cross-agency team will be judged against common KPIs – no party can drive their own agenda. The KPIs should be tied to tangible business results while leaving room for each partner agency to leverage their specialist skills to find the best solutions. Shared goals will encourage cross-agency collaboration – as each partner’s unique expertise is required to reach the best outcome. ROI and sales growth are good examples, but also consider KPIs relating to efficiency savings such as cost of acquisition, cost of production or content waste. These KPIs will push the cross-agency team to co-create solutions that improve both the client’s as well as their own businesses.
4. “NO SECRETS AT THIS TABLE”
Be transparent & consistent with what has been agreed – it is important to ensure that processes and tasks are followed up transparently. Shared kanban-boards and operational partner-to-partner meetings are encouraged so that all parties are aware of how their joint work is progressing. The client should also ensure that each party stays consistent with their assigned mandate – delivering what is required in a timely fashion without encroaching on the turf of others. This will over time foster trust and team spirit – improving the performance of the cross-agency team as a whole.
5. “DATA IS THE ULTIMATE EQUALISER”
Use data to objectively track performance – each cross-agency sprint should be followed by a report that measures the performance of the team in reaching their shared objectives. The report should contain the business impact of the team’s deliveries, providing a clear way to determine what worked. Results should be based on high-quality first-party data to remove any doubts of validity. Clear and reliable results eliminate agency bias in interpretation and focus the cross-agency team on driving the KPIs that matter. A test & learn approach is advisable, allowing all parties to voice ideas. A data-driven approach of testing ideas and interpreting results based on first-party data will ensure continuous learning.
6. “A LITTLE PARTY NEVER HURT NOBODY”
Celebrate successes together – once objectives are reached time should be reserved for celebration. Like the work itself – the celebration should be conducted in true cross-agency spirit. We strongly recommend not skipping this step – a cross-agency afterwork goes a long way in fostering valuable team spirit.
7. “ACTIVELY MANAGE THE TEAM”
Mitigate issues before they arise – like any other team, maintaining an effective cross-agency team requires active management. Mitigating risks is essential to ensure that no distractions arise that might compromise the effectiveness of the team. The client should actively engage all parties, ask for feedback, clarify expectations and work to resolve problems within the team before they become distractions. Consider organising individual ‘retrospectives’ with the different parties; discussing what works and what needs to be improved. Deep-dive into how each party feels that they are able to contribute to the shared goals and leverage their expertise. Make sure feedback is frequent and specific, with the aim of cultivating a unified high-performance team.
Digital marketing and sales results ultimately depend on the seamless collaboration of a wide range of digital talent, collaborating both within the company as well as a part of a larger ecosystem of partners. We believe that with a cross-agency model involving the right partners, managed in the right way, business goals can be exceeded and the customer experience improved. Meanwhile, the partnering agencies will develop valuable new networks and find ways to improve the ways in which they deliver value. It will be well worth the effort!