Partnering for Success1 May, 2009 By: Bridget McCrea Response
How to find agency partners that will make your campaign shine.
It makes Robert Yallen's day when a marketer calls his company, desperate for help in picking up the pieces of a failing DRTV campaign whose agency partners haven't delivered on their promises. Maybe the media agency didn't know the ins and outs of the direct response landscape, or perhaps the production house lacked infomercial experience. Whatever the problem, Yallen is more than happy to help.
"We get these calls all the time, and we love them," says Yallen, president at Encino, Calif.-based Inter/Media Advertising and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board. "Many times large firms will go to their general advertising agencies to handle their direct marketing initiatives, only to find out that those agencies have no clue how to use a direct response model."
That lack of experience in the DR space often results in creative that's more "brand-oriented," Yallen explains, and that doesn't work at all in the short-and long-form DRTV world. Then, when it comes time to buy media and set up the telemarketing and fulfillment services, the problems only get worse. "At that point, the agency scrambles to try to find a company that can successfully handle DRTV," says Yallen. "It happens all the time."
By then, of course, money and time has been invested in a campaign that's not meeting expectations. A better approach is to put together a successful project that — from the outset — involves reputable, experienced media buyers, production houses, fulfillment firms, Internet marketing experts and other partners, depending on the campaign. To get there, Yallen advises marketers to start with a thorough look at their internal operations by asking questions like: Do we have an in-house advertising director? Do we need a full-service agency, or can we handle some of the functionality on our own? Do we want to control some of the creative process ourselves, or farm it out?
With those questions answered, marketers should then figure out how to find good agency partners to either handle the entire project from concept to completion, or to take over in those areas that the firm can't or won't handle. Getting word-of-mouth referrals from colleagues who have used DRTV successfully is one way to do this. Other good sources include industry groups, Internet searches and social networking sites, the latter of which can serve as a sounding board for marketers in need of solid agency partners.
Social networking sites, such as Twitter, are a good source for finding a partner agency for a DRTV campaign. Online, marketers can share advice and referrals with those who have already been there and done that.
The Right Match
As CEO of Winnetka, Calif.-based McKenna's Marketing (and formerly, as vice president of E-commerce for Naples, Fla.-based alternative health network Nature Trade), Susan McKenna uses social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to find the best possible agency partners. "Finding a vendor for a new project is no longer about Googling and hoping for the best," says McKenna. "These days, I just open my Twitter page and ask my 5,000 followers for advice and referrals. There's a wealth of information out there to be had from companies that have already been there and done that."
Once you've narrowed your choices down to a handful of potential partners, you'll want to come up with a process that helps you whittle the list down even further. This can be done through a formal request for proposal (RFP) approach, through an informal interviewing process or a combination of the two.
To make sure it is joining forces with the best possible agency partners, InterContinental Hotels Group of Atlanta relies on a selection process that focuses on objectives, skill sets and capabilities. "We outline our objectives on a checklist that the vendor uses to provide us with an accurate quote," explains Ken Bott, director of global consumer marketing and CRM, who says the process works well in the DRTV space. "We have enough rigor on the front end to allow us to get accurate responses from agencies that will help compliment our business objectives."
Do Not Forget to Ask These Questions!