Working with an ad agency can be a tough gig. But done correctly, it can pay great dividends. Not convinced? Ask yourself this: Why do most of the world’s largest companies and most well-known brands, despite the fact that they have the resources to hire their own internal marketing team, instead, hire outside advertising agencies to help them develop their brand and marketing strategies?

You’ll have to ask the folks at Apple, Harley Davidson and Ford to answer that one. But there are definitely do’s and don’ts to successfully working with an ad agency. If you are doing most of these right, you are likely considered a marketing genius within your company. If you’re not doing these, here’s your chance to evolve into your company’s marketing hero.


1. Include an Ad Agency in Strategy

It is likely that your agency partners have worked with a variety of clients. Many have faced similar challenges that you do. By working with an ad agency team early in the strategy and planning phase, you’ll gain the benefit of their valuable experience. Additionally, roping in everyone at the beginning gets everyone on the same page, ultimately saving you time and getting you a better final strategy and creative product.


2. Don’t Nitpick the Little Things

The creative people in most ad agencies feature the cream of the crop when it comes to creative and design talent. They study the latest design trends and take great pride in making sure their work is excellent. Nothing is more demotivating to them as having their work picked apart little by little (change the headline typeface, make that line a little thinner, add these photos we just shot with our smart phones and make the logo bigger). Sure there has to be give and take. After all, you’re the client. But if the changes are just personal preferences, believe me, it will pay in both the short and long runs to defer to their expertise.


3. Embrace the Outside Perspective

One of the greatest values of working with an ad agency is the outside perspective. We’re not jaded by the internal rules and perceptions that can influence messaging. We’re not so close to product developers and engineers who take great pride in the details and features of the products they develop. We’re trained to think like your customers, and simplify the message so it has the greatest impact on those you are trying to sell.


4. Share Results

Believe it or not, your ad agency team thrives more on moving the needle and achieving your goals than it does winning creative awards. Don’t forget to provide them the feedback they crave. It’s easy to overlook sharing sales numbers, inquiries, website visits, etc. But when you do overlook sharing these figures, it can lead to apathy. Plus, when you don’t share that information with your ad agency team, they can’t very well offer better ideas, suggestions or improvements, now can they?


5. Communicate the Challenge

I’ve heard engineers describe their role as being a “problem solver.” Think of your ad agency as a group of “marketing engineers” whose sole focus is to solve your marketing problems. The more successfully you determine and communicate your challenge, the better your marketing engineer team can fix it.


6. Incentivize Superior Performance

There’s a lot of talk in our industry now about performance-based incentives. Setting goals and dangling a carrot out there for your agency team to achieve can be a great strategy to make sure the team stays 100% focused on achieving your goals. Often, successful solutions can be very simple ones that can make a huge difference. Is it worth incentivizing your agency team to reach a goal if, in the end, you win as well? And isn’t it all about the win-win?


7. Provide Direction and Research

You absolutely HAVE to share information you’ve gathered and research you’ve conducted. Not once in my 22 years in the business have we seen a NDA that we couldn’t sign. We can keep secrets. And the more your agency partners know, the more dangerous we can be in helping you build a plan that will take down your competition.


8. Put On Your Customer Hat

When it’s time to review the messaging, the creative, the advertising or the news release, it’s time for you to take off your client hat and put on your customer hat. These hats are much different. Your client hat is the one that wants to make sure every product feature is communicated and your brand is front and center. Your customer hat is the one that lets you understand that you only have a few brief seconds to catch attention, communicate a single key message AND inform the audience who the message is from. At creative review time, always wear your customer hat.


9. Listen and Ask Questions

Marketing is complicated these days. You have digital tools like SEO, SEM, email, digital advertising, websites, landing pages, and on and on. On top of that, you have all the traditional strategies like print, broadcast, smart PR, trade shows, events and more. Sometimes agency people are so familiar with these different tools that we speak a different language. Don’t let us do that. Ask questions. Understand what we are talking about — so you can make sure you can explain what happened when the boss comes in and offers you a big fat raise for exceeding all of your marketing goals.