Great strategy is only great if it is executed well. PowerPoint, Word documents and board room discussions don’t build awareness or connect your product and services with the target audience across their buying journey or close any sales. Great strategy is only great if it is executed with distinction. The work is what works.
The art of being a great marketer is in how sound strategy finds its way into tactics that drive the business. To do this, the best CMOs and marketers get the best results from their inhouse and external agencies.
How can marketers know what is necessary to make sure that their strategy is brought to life in the most compelling and successful manner regardless of the medium? There are several key areas that marketers and their agencies need to address to ensure the work will work – and we have a checklist that will allow you to focus your energy on key areas that will contribute to more successful work.
Attention to the following areas will help any organization achieve better agency results. Use this as a checklist and self-grade your organization! Ask your agencies to grade each area. Put emphasis and resources towards addressing any areas that come up short.
The CMO Checklist for Better Agency Results
SOW Alignment: The SOW needs to be a clear and detailed document. That is just the starting point, however. A critical aspect of highly effective client-agency relationships is the mutual understanding of the SOW and shared expectations on what the SOW means (and doesn’t mean!) regarding the activities and deliverables that the agency has signed up for. Does this softer side of SOW alignment exist with your agency?
Marketing Calendar: The Marketing Calendar helps the entire team plan their workload and visualize how the year unfolds. It’s a key tool for complex organizations to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction. Is your calendar readily available to all key stakeholders?
Workflow: Campaign workflows and RACI are the starting point to ensure everyone that touches an effort touches it at the right time, with enough lead time to deliver outstanding work. Do you have campaign workflows developed for campaigns of differing complexities and investment levels?
Briefs: The client brief is not the same thing as the creative brief that the agency creates. The client brief is one of the most important documents that a marketer creates and includes measurable business and target audience objectives, key strategies, insights that can be leveraged and defines the deliverables needed from the agency. Great clients share their brief during an interactive work session with the agency to ensure shared understanding and expectations. Are your briefs complete and presented/shared in client-agency work sessions?
30/60/90 Work Plan: The 30/60/90 Day Work Plan, identifying key deliverables and those responsible, is a great management tool to stay on top of critical activities. It is a great document to help with routine client/agency status discussions. The best 30/60/90 Day Work Plans are updated on a rolling basis so that the day-to-day teams are always cognizant of key deliverables at least 90 days out.
Strategy Training: Training budgets everywhere have been cut in recent years, and marketers have never been uniformly fantastic at training strategy and insight identification. This is a big gap in many organizations as great strategy and insights are the partner for great creative and media plans. Together they are the magic multiplier of marketing effectiveness. Do you invest annually in training your team in insight identification and strategy training?
Creative & Media Evaluation Training: Very few marketers have been trained in the best practices of creative or media plan evaluation. As a result, much of the feedback the inhouse or external agency receives is not based on the brief and often personal taste related. Has your team been trained in how to evaluate creative or media plans?
Feedback Training: There is an art to delivering clear, concise, and effective feedback. Feedback is a gift, and giving effective feedback is critical to better results. Does your team have a proven process for delivering feedback?
Top-to-Top Calls: Modern businesses are course correcting daily. Your agencies can be more agile and effective when the senior execs are aligned and communicate routinely. Do you have a regular cadence for Top-to-Top calls?
The “Must See” Call: There is too much work and too many other pressing issues demanding CMO attention for the CMO to see every ad or communications tactic that airs. There are core efforts that need the CMO’s buy-in and involvement like new campaign ideas, major broadcast work, and significant investment decisions. The “CMO Must See Call” is a routine creative review call with agency, the CMO and all other client levels in attendance that keeps critical work on track and helps the CMO build effective proxies.
Inter-Agency Team (IAT): Many marketers work with rosters of specialist agencies. The IAT is a key approach that helps extend the client’s vision and ensure the entire agency team is working together. Do you have an IAT with a clear charter and processes?
Respectful Communication & Behaviors: This is a people business, and people are more committed when they are treated well. Are you on time for meetings? Do you listen well? Do you ask questions to understand as opposed to attack? Ask your agencies what is working well and what could be better. And prioritize respectful behaviors! You’ll get better work.
Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Ulta Beauty, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Kaiser Permanente, Holland America Line, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.