EP 131: Managing Agency Relationships With Suzanne Brown | OKSuzi

In this episode, Stacy sits down with Suzanne Brown of OKSuzi Marketing. The two discuss Suzanne’s extensive experience as a business consultant helping seasoned entrepreneurs with high-level marketing challenges, and Suzanne shares her step-by-step guide to working with marketing agencies.

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Stacy: 00:00    

Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and brand and content agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for top experts to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today.

While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you’re doing a DIY approach, or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.


Automated: 00:31   

Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.


Stacy: 00:35 

Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today and I want to give a very warm welcome to Suzanne Brown of OKSuzi Marketing, who’s joining us to discuss her over 18 years of experience in working in strategic marketing. Suzanne is a business consultant who helps seasoned entrepreneurs with the high level marketing challenges in large companies work better with their marketing agencies.

She’s taught workshops at large companies, organizations, and educational institutions. She has an experience … See, I’m doing it now. She has experience as an integrated marketer on well-known Fortune 500 clients at large agencies in Austin, New York, Chicago, and Miami. And for the past five years, for the past six years, Suzanne has been able to apply big business knowledge to smaller clients’ needs. She’s also given a TED Talk and is award-winning and best-selling author.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to know when you’re ready for a marketing agency of any type, and how to set yourself up for success, including the steps to take beforehand, the different ways to look at agency performance as you look at potential partners, considering how you set up the relationship, contract negotiation tips, and the dos and don’ts of dealing with an agency. We’ll learn what’s worked from Suzanne’s experience, what maybe could be avoided if you’re doing this yourself, and not working with an agency, and where other brands are missing the mark. Suzanne, welcome.

Suzanne: 01:49    

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to chat today.


Stacy: 01:53

You are very welcome to be here. I’m so excited to have you here, because this is a topic that really more brands should ready themselves especially, more launching first year, second year, third year brands. It’s not as easy as some may think, to set yourself up for success and working with an agency of any type because there are some hurdles and some growth that has to happen from the brand side before you actually start bringing more members onto your team. I’m really looking forward to chatting with you about that today.

Suzanne: 02:29  

It’s interesting because I get the question often, especially from entrepreneurs or from brands who have really started to grow and they’re like, “Okay, so now what?” That can vary so much, and I was actually having a conversation yesterday with a venture capitalist, and she either helps raise money for the brands that she helps strategize with and helps bring to market, or they’re brands that have already kind of started their journey, and she’s going to invest in them as an angel investor.

She was talking about how we talk about kind of once brands have more money, and how do they make things happen. But it’s really in that stage of like when they have gotten money from family, and maybe they’ve gotten some seed money, and maybe they have an angel investor, or maybe there are some wealthy individuals who are invested. It’s in that period when they really need the marketing help, but they don’t really know how to go find it. That was such an interesting little nugget that I just hadn’t thought through until we had this conversation.

Stacy: 03:44 

Well, I think they don’t necessarily know how to find it. But from my experience, also, sometimes they have the expectations when approaching, looking for that marketing help that that marketing help is going to be the instant solution solver for everything, and it’s going to be how their business is going to survive, with or without their help and attention, and you’re going to hand the reins over to your company and someone is going to soar and do it all for you.

Suzanne: 04:09   

That is very true. It is not something that you can just hand over, and then like I’m out, you just make it go happen. You have to stay engaged.

Stacy: 04:23 

Can you talk a little bit about what got you started in the world of agency and marketing, and how long you’ve been doing what you’re doing, and a little bit more about your background and what led you to wanting to actually talk about this topic today?

Suzanne: 04:38   

So, I took a slightly different path when it comes to the agency world. So, my undergrad degrees are in finance and in Spanish language, and most people in finance don’t go into the agency world. I will admit, I kind of fell into the agency world. I had had the world’s worst internship at a marketing agency that I eventually went and worked for, but it was a job I basically was asking my manager when I had been an intern, I said, “I want to go and apply for something at this other company, can you recommend me?” And he said, “I will only recommend you if you apply for this open position here at the agency.”

Which he definitely strong armed me a little bit, but it was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. I essentially was walking into an agency fresh out of college, having to take over for someone who was like two or three levels above where I would have been as the most junior person on the team, because she was going on maternity leave. So, I had to walk in and basically totally fill her shoes and work on, at that point I think there were like two or three TV productions that were happening, and they were on huge brands.

I mean, it was like Pampers and Charmin and Pepto, and Bounty. They were huge pieces of business. And it was in the Hispanic marketing world. So, the budgets were definitely not as big as they are in general market. But what it came down to was, I had to learn a ton in a really short amount of time. It really set me up for success for the rest of my career. So, I spent about 12 and a half years, a little more than 12 years we’ll say, on the agency side, and I worked on huge pieces of business, as you mentioned. So brands like Pampers, and Coca-Cola and IBM and Allstate. So, large pieces of business that are household names.

I’m an integrated marketer, so I’ve worked in like every kind of marketing that you can imagine, by design, which is not normally how you have your career. If you’re on the agency side, normally you develop a specialization. So, you’re like an advertising person, or you do direct marketing, or you do digital. I have kind of done the full integrated thing, because I wanted to. I wanted to eventually become like a truly integrated marketer. And I realized that wasn’t going to happen if I stayed on track in only one area.

So, I worked on all kinds of different brands, lots of different industries. I went and I got my MBA, after being in the market, in the agency world for about five years, I said, I’m never going to go back to an agency again, which are truly like famous last words. So I went back to the agency world. When I moved, I’ve been in Austin now since 2002. I came here for grad school. And the thing about coming back to an agency after you’ve gotten an MBA is, all of a sudden they realize that you have skills that most people don’t have in an agency.

I did very nontraditional things. I did things like strategic relationships, and I worked in different ways to help the agency make money, like literally my last job was as a financial strategist. My job was to help the agency make money, which you would think is like, oh, yeah, of course, you need somebody doing that. But most agencies, even large agencies don’t have that role. But that gave me just a very interesting perspective on the relationship between a brand and their marketing agency and how do contracts work, and how do you financially bring things together?

Because I had done those things, leading an account, but I hadn’t done them from the outside perspective of business building. So, all of a sudden, I saw very different things than I did as I was leading a business. So, that was very interesting. I had done marketing consulting from 2004 until about 2012. So, walking out of my MBA, I went to work for a company before working at a marketing agency again. I still had clients come to me and say, “Hey, can you work on this project,” which were my own consulting clients. And I said, “You know I have a job,” and they’re like, “Yeah, that’s great and all, but can you work on this project for me?”

In 2012, I focused on my own thing, and became 100% entrepreneur. The whole reason for doing this whole the relationship between marketers and their marketing agencies is because I got a ton of questions about how that works, and people who were struggling with that relationship, and I thought, you’re a seasoned marketer, you’ve been in the workforce for however many years, and many of these were my MBA friends, and I said, “You know, I don’t understand,” and they said, “Here’s the deal. When are you taught how to manage a marketing agency?”

Literally, when is that something that you’re taught as an entrepreneur, as a brand manager on a huge piece of business? It’s one of your single biggest expenditures, it’s one of your biggest line items in your budget, but when are you taught how to do this? And then on the flip side, agencies are never truly taught how to manage a client, right? It’s this weird gap, but it’s needed.

Marketers and their agencies, that will exist for a long time, right? Who knows what it will look like in 20 years. But these are relationships and circumstances that have been around for over 100 years. But on both sides, neither one is taught how to deal with the other side.

Stacy: 10:51

Now you have me being quiet right now because I’m just thinking about in our own agency, and it’s true. It’s through experience, that’s how I was taught and when we onboard and we have younger team members, there’s a tremendous curve of learning that has to happen in order for them to understand client services and how to work on the client side. So it makes absolute sense for on the brand side, on the corporate side to also have that same lack of knowledge.

Suzanne: 11:20 

Yeah, and if you are a much smaller brand, if you are in the entrepreneurial world, you’re taught all kinds of different things about harvesting your brand, and how do you develop and all these things, but you’re never actually taught, how do you engage a marketing resource? And that’s a pretty consistent thing that you’re going to have to do, how do you find that resource? How do you … When you get to the point where you can hire kind of a bigger resource, how do you go find those people?

So, these real world things are just not taught, but we need them. They can really kind of make or break your success. I said, well, I’m going to help build that bridge. It seems so logical, but I would not have known without getting those questions.

Stacy: 12:09

So, what is the first step? How do you start building that bridge?

Suzanne: 12:14

What I think it really comes down to is the question becomes, do you need a marketing agency, right? There are a few things that can help you figure that out. So, part of it is definitely budget, and I will say so many people are like, “Oh, I can’t get a marketing agency because I don’t have a million dollars.” You don’t have to have a million dollars to have a marketing agency. I mean, there are marketing agencies that deal with every size client that you can imagine.

I think it becomes more of, do you have a consistent budget that you can spend on marketing. The thing to keep in mind is, you are always spending money on marketing. So, even if you decide to use social media as your marketing tool, there is still time associated with using that social media, right? There is still … And time ultimately equals money. So, you are always spending some kind of money, some kind of resource on marketing.

I think that when the time comes for you to be able to engage an external resource, it is really helpful to think of a budget of anywhere from like 15 to 30% of your budget can be spent on marketing. That means anything, right? Like that can be any size budget that we’re talking about. But it’s not like, “Oh, I can do it for these three months, but I can’t do it for the next two years.” You don’t need an external resource if that’s the case. I think that’s the first step.

And then there are a few times, a few different scenarios when I think it’s really helpful to know if you need a marketing agency. So, it might be that your sales are stagnant, or it might be that they’re very hit or miss, like you’re not consistently making sales. It could be that you are making sales and you are doing marketing, but you really don’t understand what’s working. So it’s like, I know something’s working, but I don’t actually know why or how. And that might mean that you need somebody to come in and really kind of understand, like, what is going well, and how do we continue to mimic this?

It could be because you have a new target, and you’re trying to understand the mindset of that new target. It could be that you need to update your brand, you know, you’ve had something in place, you’ve had a great internal team who’s rocking and rolling, and maybe it’s because you do get new money. Maybe it’s because you’ve just hit a point where you’re like, you know, we need to rebrand, we need to make new things happen. It’s really helpful to have an external team do that.

Then I think the final one is, I’ll actually add two more. One is that you need a broader set of skills. You have talked about, on some of your podcasts, about how to do things the right way with influencers. Maybe you’re wanting to engage with an influencer, and you’re like, “You know what, that is totally not in our wheelhouse. We need to go find somebody who can really strategically guide us to do that.”

And then the final one is really, you don’t have the time. Literally, you don’t have the time to do this, your own team is like I am strapped, I can’t take on anymore. So instead of hiring another person, go and look for an external resource that allows you to have a very different skill set, or it allows you to engage different tools at different times.

You can think of different people on a team as different tools in your toolkit. So, I think that that can help, and that’s whether you’re a big brand or a small brand. That can be that you’re a solo entrepreneur who’s growing, or it can be that you are a multimillion dollar business. So, I think those times can really help.

Stacy: 16:00 

From an individual standpoint, you have the option of okay, your team is at full max capacity, they can’t take on anything else. You can’t take on anything else and you have the decision, you can go out and hire an agency to assist you, or you could hire someone else to join your team. How do you know which is the better one to do?

Suzanne: 16:21

I think it comes down to what you ultimately need. Because when you hire a single individual, you only get their set of skills. But when you hire an agency, like your agency, you get a lot of different skills. There might be other industries that can help you think differently about what you’re doing in your own industry. There might be, you know … You naturally as an agency have different kinds of people who work with you. You have account people, you have people in production, you’ve got creatives, you’ve got all these different kinds of people.

And so maybe it’s that they don’t work 100% on this piece of business, maybe you only get 25% of each of these individuals. But all of a sudden, you get all of their understanding, their experience. So you get all of those things. Whereas if you hire a single person, you only get that woman or man’s experience. That’s it. And so you have to think about what do I really need to move the needle?

That’s a pretty important conversation to have, either with yourself or with your team, not to threaten them of like, I’m going to go hire somebody, but it’s like, how can we make our time and effort and money more efficient? Is that bringing a person in, or is that looking externally so that we can amplify what we do in a different way.

Stacy: 17:51 

Plus, you’re able to actually bring in someone maybe at a much higher level at an organization that has multiple individuals who are going to be working on your account, than you would be able to even if you had a massive budget that you could bring into your own team.

Suzanne: 18:05 

So true, so true, because you’re not hiring 100% necessarily of that person. You might only get 20% of their time, but you know what, they’re going to make amazing things happen on your piece of business.

Stacy: 18:23

You mentioned this earlier, what’s the first place to start? You think that you’re ready to work with an agency and you want to go out and find, how do you do it? What’s the best way?

Suzanne: 18:34 

So, the first thing you need to do is you need to look at yourself, you need to do an internal audit, and you really need to understand, essentially 360 degrees of your marketing right now, right? You need to understand what are you doing well, what are you not doing well, and part of that is going to have to be looking at like internal processes, it might be looking at your products.

Maybe you’re not delivering 100% of the time, and you’re going to need to fix those things. But I think it’s helpful to do that 360 degree audit, because that helps you understand what do you do? What are your strengths and weaknesses? And what do you actually need from this external resource? If you are amazing in all things social media, but your website sucks, you don’t need to go find somebody who does social media really well. You need to go find a digital resource who can completely revamp your everything online that you’re doing, that’s your website, maybe the funnels that you have in place.

Or maybe it’s that you’re doing really well on social media, but you really need help with email marketing, because it’s like, okay, once we bring them into our company, and they’re excited about us, we start losing people left and right. That’s when you find those, that’s when you figure out like, what exactly you need instead of, “Oh, it would be super cool if we could …” It’s like, no, you don’t want to do that. That’s not the right word.

You want to be strategic because ultimately you are going to spend money, and you’re going to spend time. You’re going to have to find the right resource, and you’re going … As we talked about earlier, you can’t just hand it over to somebody and be like, “Go.” You have to stay engaged. So, it’s still going to cost you time, even if you are using this external resource.

Stacy: 20:29  

And so taking it to the next step beyond that, so you’ve determined that you want to work with a marketing agency, you’re figuring out how to do that, what are kind of the rules of the road and the guidelines of what you should do and what you should not do as far as expectations with that relationship?

Suzanne: 20:49 

Ultimately, you have to decide how you’re going to measure your agency. So, how you’re going to measure the agencies that you even look at and then how do you measure whoever you choose? Because you have to set up what success looks like, right? And that varies from one brand to the next, from one team to the next. It might even vary from project to project, especially if you are a smaller brand and you are engaging different agencies based on different projects.

I will say even larger brands seem to be engaging other agencies on project work more and more frequently. So, you have to be able to understand like, what exactly is good, what does it look like? I think part of that has to do with understanding what are the things that matter to you as an agency, as a marketer about your agency, and that is going to vary. That is not going to be ….

I can’t necessarily tell you, here’s exactly what you should be looking at. But I think that some of the things that can be helpful to think about are the experience that an agency has and what is their track record? When they have creative ideas, how strategic are they for the brands that they work with? It’s being able to think about those things is going to be incredibly helpful. And on top of that, you really need fit.

If you are a super buttoned up kind of team, you don’t want a super casual team. You are not going to be happy, you’re going to be frustrated over and over again. And so that fits matters, it really matters a lot. Then the final where is cost, what can you really afford? You don’t want to get the Rolls Royce if you can really only pay for the GMC?

Stacy: 23:01   


Suzanne: 23:02

I think there are several things that you need to think about. But those things matter whether you have a long-term or short-term relationship. Those are the things that will kind of either make or break a relationship.

Stacy: 23:19 

You have signed up, they’re onboard, you’re working together, your first step, along those lines also, is we are making sure that you have a defined overview of what that marketing agency is expected to do. So everyone’s on the same page, you’ve had that conversation. So expectations are met. How do you launch it? How do you make sure you know, you just made the comment that you want to make sure you’re aligned and you’re bringing on someone who has the same type of mindset as far as work.

If you’re someone who is super organized, you’re going to want to work with an agency that’s super organized. If you’re someone who is a little bit more off the cuff, you might drive an agency who’s super organized absolutely insane and not set up your sales to the best partnership, because we all know that happens sometimes too, right? It works both ways.

Suzanne: 24:11 

It does.

Stacy: 24:12    

How involved should the individual be from day one with the agency? How many phone calls, how many emails, how many meetings, how much impact is that owner or that brand manager going to need to have in guiding the agency as it’s launching the relationship and getting the ball rolling? How much leeway do you need to give the agency so that you’re not putting in roadblocks to what you’ve just asked them to do?

Suzanne: 24:48  

So I think one of the easiest ways to start off a relationship in the right way is to have essentially like an agency one on one day. It is a lot easier to have all of those things happen, honestly face to face. So literally go in, talk to your agency, have them just walk you through, you know, here are all the team members, here’s what they do, here is …

Have them walk you through process. And because you also need to be able to reciprocate and tell people the same things, right? Like, here’s our process, if you are a larger brand, even if you’re not a larger brand. We have to have our legal team review such and such thing. It takes at least five days for that to happen. Each side needs to be able to share their lay of the land. So, it’s a lot easier if you do that kind of in a team environment with everybody on the same page.

I will say one thing really quickly though, and that is when it comes to creating these relationships, I don’t want to assume that people create these relationships in the right way from the beginning, because I think something that is not very sexy, but is absolutely necessary is what I call SCC, so it’s your scope of work, your compensation, and your contracts, right?

Stacy: 24:48   


Suzanne: 26:21 

It’s not very interesting, but these things have to happen. You have definitely talked about contract before in some of your other podcasts. So, you all should totally take those into account as you have any kind of relationship. But when it comes to the scope of work, you want to define all of the things that you expect a brand to do in that scope of work. The reason why I say that is if you expect to have a weekly meeting, that should be in your scope of work. That should be something that you talk about because that takes time. That’s another time thing that both of you are expecting.

You don’t need to detail every single one of those kinds of things, but if you expect there to be a weekly meeting or something, a meeting that happens once a month, where it’s a much bigger meeting, or I’ve had worldwide calls for my brands were on the Tuesday of one week, we met with this kind of team at this time. On the Tuesday of the following week, we met at a slightly different time with a slightly different group of people. But that was built into our scope of work, that was built into the contract.

I will give people a little nugget when it comes to talking about scope of work and compensation. I highly recommend that you don’t actually build these in to your contract. I recommend that you have them as an attachment. The reason why I mention this is because when they’re built into the contract, and you work with agencies for a few different years, the whole contract has to be reviewed. But if there is an attachment, and nothing else changes in your contract, all you have to do is review that attachment, all you have to do is review the exhibit. That can save you and your team a ton of time. Sorry, go ahead.

Stacy: 28:18  

No, it can also save you the client, because sometimes those contracts can get stuck in review forever and ever and ever, and kill a project.

Suzanne: 28:26

Well, and that’s what I’m saying. As a product manager, as a brand manager, as a marketer, not on the agency side, but as a marketer, it really can be a drag to all the things that you have to do. So, having it as a separate thing, it’s like it’s literally just the attachment, it’s literally it’s only Exhibit A or whatever they’re called in your particular contract is incredibly helpful. And literally you just refer to them in your contract as you know, for scope of work, we’ve agreed to the scope of work as described in Exhibit A. That’s it. That’s all you have to mention.

You can literally have it all be one thing, scope of work for a fee of X dollars. And literally, all legal has to do is review that small paragraph, and then just look at those other documents. It can be a huge time saver, and if you don’t have in house legal, which a lot of smaller brands do not, it can save you tons of dollars, by not having to have your lawyer look at something.

Let’s be honest, most lawyers aren’t charging you $50, they’re charging you hundreds of dollars an hour. So, it can be having them review something for an hour versus review an entire 10 page document, or even longer, for however many hours that takes. It can save time and money over and over and over again, and it can help you every year. So it’s not just like, “Oh, it’s this one time savings.” So, I do mention that and I want to make sure that people think about that. Because almost everyone includes scope of work in their document.

Stacy: 30:08    

The other reason is we’ve had and experienced even this year is we worked with a new emerging brand, and the direction of what they hired us to do from day one, literally by day 35 changed. That’s not exactly ideal. You don’t really want to enter and do that, but having that scope of work that was separate from the contract allowed us to very easily map out and continue the relationship in a different direction. So, it allows you to be a little bit more nimble, I think, having the documents separated and able to be adjusted in that way too.

Suzanne: 30:49 

Yeah, and that’s actually a great segue into the idea of what’s in scope and out of scope, right? Because you might have something that you’re working on in 2019, but it’s incredibly important. But that’s not going to be something that you include moving forward, right? So you can also divide things up between what will be considered scope of work that’s pretty typical, versus this is an out of scope project just for this year, because that can help you better manage the resources that you have.

Instead of having the agency have 10 people who always work on your team, and that’s what they’re allotting for, it’s really only going to be seven. That’s really all you need. Just in this particular year, you need those extra three people. So that way, it helps you in those discussions as well, where it’s like, no, I don’t need 10 people. I literally only need seven. Like that’s it.

I think that can help with your success moving forward because you really do understand like, what are the resources that I need versus, okay, well, we’re going to change up that out of scope project each year. So I don’t actually need those same three people. I need other three people. Really it just comes down to time savings and money savings. It’s kind of always what it comes down to.

But I think it can also help you strategically, because you can guide what is it that I really need. I don’t need to have the same thing happen over and over again. Something that I’m trying to do right now, as a brand, this is really important for us this year strategically, but we’re going to change things up in year one, year two, year three, all the way to however many years that you expect to work with an agency.

You can change things up over the course of that time. But when you know there are things that will be consistent, it’s really helpful to know that like upfront. When it comes down to having those conversations and understanding how much time it means, there’s no question it is going to take you more time at the beginning of a relationship than it will take you as things get into their groove.

So, even as the CEO of a small business or as a large business, you might want to have hands-on understanding of what’s going on, and over time, you’re going to release the reins. Okay, let me say you want to release the reins, you don’t want to micromanage an agency. That is not a good use of your time. But schedule in more time up front to have that agency one on one. But to be able to give that initial feedback on how things are going creatively, you’re going to have to be a little more heavy handed at the beginning, than you will be as things get into a groove.

So don’t assume that if you spend five hours one week that in week 10, you’re going to spend five hours still, right? You want to start to release the reins, so that that agency can get into their groove the way they need to, they’re not going to have as many questions. They’re not going to be asking for your time in the same way. You want them to be able to do their thing, because at that point, you have to think about like, are you helping or hindering? Are you micromanaging or are you being helpful?

Stacy: 34:15 

When, as a brand owner or manager, should you realize the wheels are off the track? There is a problem, what do we do at that point?

Suzanne: 34:27 

So, I will share the most common question that I got, or that I get when I do these workshops in person is, what do I do when the creative is totally wrong? Literally, this is the question that marketers ask me more than any other question that I get asked. The interesting thing about this is one, there’s not an easy to solution, right? It’s not like oh, well, you just simply change this and it’s fine.

But I think in that case scenario, it’s not just that it was wrong, it’s something led to that. So you need to talk to whoever the account person is because normally the person who’s speaking to you is not the person who’s developing the creative idea. Those tend to be different people in an agency environment, whether it’s a big or a small agency.

You want to have that conversation with your account, with your liaison, with your account person, or your clients service person, whatever they’re called, to be able to understand what happened here, because what I told you as my strategic business need did not translate to this creative solution. The equal sign in here is broken. So you want to understand that and then part of it is being able to give the feedback of this is really off strategy. This doesn’t really do what we need it to do from a business sense.

But you have to think about how you give that feedback, right? Like, you can’t just be like this sucks. A lot of times, there’s no question, if you are not a creative, if you are not in a creative mindset, the people who do creative work are very different mentality. Their brain works differently, how they do things is very different than somebody who manages the P&L of a brand, somebody who is an entrepreneur even. Even if you’re both creating, your brains work very differently.

I think it’s helpful to think about when a creative team brings you whatever it is that they’re supposed to be providing, whether it’s the social media tiles or whether it’s a whole TV campaign, this is ultimately their work product. This is what they have created. This is what they have spent their blood, sweat, and tears on. So, if you sit there and you’re like, “This sucks, this is like the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” think about how that shuts that person down.

This is like their resume, and you just put a huge red X on it. And so being able to think about, like, how would you want to receive that information and being able to talk through like, strategically I think this is off the mark. Here’s what we were trying to achieve. And I think this actually speaks more to this area over here.

I think that’s going to get you a lot more of a positive response instead of just the team shutting down. Because you don’t want them to shut down, that is absolutely not where you want to land. You want them to think like, “Okay, I’m going to go back to the drawing board, and I’m going to get this to work differently, right?” You want them to feel empowered to make the change so that you ultimately get the marketing solution that you need.

Stacy: 38:11

Someone once gave me the advice that on your team and your agency can be considered your team, really all you’re doing is you’re hoping that someone will get 60% there on the first try, that you’re going to hope that they can actually stay on the straight track, where they’re going to deliver whatever product it is that they’re supposed to be creating, and get at least 60%. And then know that everyone’s going to actually have some feedback, that there’s going to be some shifts, and that it’s not a defeat, if you hear that, you know, okay, these are the changes that we need to make.

Then the next time at it, you’re trying to hit another 60%, which is bringing you up to your 70 or your 80%. You’re almost there. Keep on going on that track. So you’re not ever necessarily aiming for 100% done, and I think that’s one of the issues that I’ve seen with our youngest members a lot of times at our agency, they think they do a project and it’s 100% done.

They still have to learn that there is going to be critiques from a client or from management, there are going to be changes that need to be made so that as a team, you can come forward with the best end all project, because that’s what’s happening when you’re working with an agency, or you’re working with multiple people, that now you’re a team and it’s not just one person coming to the rescue and bringing it as a home run.

Suzanne: 39:39 

You know, that is such a good way to look at it. You really are speaking to the fact that the whole marketing process is very iterative, right? It’s an evolution over time. I will be very honest, I have had very few meetings where a client has come back and said, “That is exactly it.” That’s what you pray for. That’s what you hope. But that almost never happens.

I think that a large part of the onus on the agency side really kind of sits with your account team. It’s with your client service team, who really has to be able to translate what a client wants into agency speak, like into the language of creatives. I mean, I will tell you very honestly, because I worked on the account side for the five years before I went back to grad school, and I had to go into creative team and say, “This is not your best work. Let’s look at what was actually on the creative brief, and show me how this responds to that creative brief.”

It was my job as an account person to take that fire internally. It was my job though as an account person to say this does not meet the needs of what our client is expecting. And we need to change it so that when we do have that conversation, we are closer to what they want, not we’re going to provide … This is not what we’re going to deliver, because this is what you’ve been working on, because this does not deliver what we should be working on. So there’s a lot of onus on your client team, your client management team I should say, to be able to make those changes happen.

I think that from the brand side, like if you are the client, knowing who to speak to in those kinds of circumstances can be incredibly helpful. Because it might be that your creative team is not the team who should be getting the feedback that you really want to give, right? It might even be that you have like a planner or customer insights person on the team. And maybe you need to talk to that person and say, “I don’t think the insights that you’re drawing are really the insights that we’re seeing.”

So you might need to think about who on a team is really the right person to engage with, and it might not simply be, let me just give you the feedback I need to give you to make this change creatively. You might need to get to something underneath it that really speaks to we’re trying to solve different marketing problems, than you’re trying to solve in your marketing execution, and that can be hard, but it’s really important.

But I also think that that speaks to one of the things that is incredibly important as a client, and that is, you can’t shut down and assume it will all work. You have to ask strategic questions, you need to ask the why’s, and the, can you tell me how you got to this conclusion? You don’t want it to be like, how exactly do you think this is right? You don’t want it to be confrontational, but to ask those engaged questions that show I’m paying attention, and I’m interested and I want to understand your thought process, because I’m not necessarily getting to the same place you are.

You want to do that as a client, that is a very important part of your job. Because you want to keep pushing back. Because your agency should be kind of pushing back creatively. In an ideal relationship, both sides are kind of pushing to have the other side learn more, evolve, have new creative ideas. You want to kind of push each other forward a little bit. I think that sometimes we forget that, and we think like, are they going to be upset by me asking questions? Like no, they want you to ask the questions, because that shows like active listening, right?

Stacy: 43:55

Well, it also allows communication to see where you might have disconnect because the agency is like, “They’re not asking any questions, they totally are on board with our great big idea. We are going to do this, this is going to rock.” And then the client is sitting there going, “Oh my God, oh my God, I don’t know what to say. This isn’t right,” and that’s not good.

Suzanne: 44:17 

Right. Or literally where you’re like I just need a new agency. This isn’t working. Let’s take a step back before we pull the plug.

Stacy: 44:26  

Or even worse yet, when the client is actually not a good agency client handler where they literally just go off the grid and you can’t, as an agency, get ahold of them, you can’t get them to return calls, give feedback, and then they pop back in. And then when they pop back in, they drop their bombs on you of what they don’t like and do like, and it’s not exactly what you were doing. And so you have to actually find the time to restart because you weren’t getting the guidance all along.

Suzanne: 44:56 

That is very true. I will say that it is really important to have those conversations at the beginning of the creative process, and not at the very end when it’s like almost ready to go live.

Stacy: 45:16


Suzanne: 45:18

It becomes more expensive for you to have those conversations further into your creative process. So, if you as the person who’s leading this project are like, yeah, this is totally, I’m super excited with this, this is great. And you didn’t show this to your CEO, and all of a sudden, your CEO gets involved in the mix, and you’re like back to square one, but you have to launch in two weeks. That’s not a good place to be.

Stacy: 45:49  


Suzanne: 45:50   

It is really hard to turn things around in a two week period. So, if you have people who really do need to be involved, if you’re a much smaller brand, it might be that you have like a board of directors who needs to see your marketing work. Or if you’re a larger brand, and you’re really kind of going in a very different direction, you might have a board of directors who needs to see this or board of advisors who needs to, I don’t want to say give their approval, but needs to be comfortable with this new direction.

You need to have those conversations early, not when you’re literally like, “Here’s our finished product, we’re going to be launching in a week.” That is not okay. Or if you haven’t had your legal team look at some of your claims, and legal somehow gets wind of whatever it is that you’re doing and says, “This was never approved,” and you’re like, “Okay,” it becomes really expensive to do this stuff really late in the game, right?

But if you can kind of lay out all of those things at the beginning and say, “Okay, I’m going to need more time up front because I need to have this go by legal. I need to have the VP of Marketing look at this. And we might need to have the CEO Look at this, you know, we’re a small organization, and we all need to kind of touch this in some way, shape, or form and be happy with it.”

I don’t think any agency would say, “No.” I don’t think it’s going to be how they do it. They’re going to have to plan that in, and you’re going to have to discuss timelines and say, “Okay, that’s great. But in order for us to hit this deadline that you’ve put in place, we need to have all of these approvals,” so to speak, or all of their feedback by this date.

So, following timelines can become very important. But I think that all agencies understand that, right? Like, if any agency is like, “No, absolutely not,” I think that’s a problem. That might not be the agency you want to be working with. And honestly, that agency probably won’t be around for very long. So, you need to think about that. But that can be where you have things like parallel process, right, like, okay, so you have approvals. But here are a few things that you can be doing while these approvals come in, right? It’s not like everything is a linear, some of those things you can do kind of at the same time so that you don’t have to have a super long timeline.

So you can talk to your agency, or the agency can talk to their client and say, “Okay, so here’s actually how we’re going to do these things. These things all kind of build on each other, but these things down here don’t. So we’re going to keep moving forward with these so that we can actually hit the deadlines that we are trying to hit.” Not everybody works that way. So being able to have those discussions up front, I think can be helpful. But also, part of it is flexibility on both sides, and understanding if I move this, what is the repercussion of that?

Stacy: 48:54 

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So, for our listeners who are interested in getting some more help from you, you had mentioned your workshops. Can you share a little bit more information on that as well as your book and how people can get ahold of you?

Suzanne: 49:09

My workshops are the one that I am, it’s currently in process, because I’ve done these workshops in person for years, but I am actually creating a video series for them, which is super exciting because I had never thought about that until last year. And it’s like, why don’t I do these in a video format? That would be really helpful.

If someone is interested in learning about the course or being on the email list that is for that course, you can go to oksuzi.com/agencycourse. And the course is essentially really about, how do you better manage your marketing agency? So what are the dos and don’ts, a lay of the land of what you’re kind of getting into for almost any agency that you engage, because there is kind of a similar structure for agencies, whether they’re digital or direct marketing or kind of whatever area of expertise, for the most part, there is a similar structure.

So it’s like, what does that structure look like? What are some of the things that you need to think about? How do you deal with when you get creative that you’re not really very happy with? How do you think about engaging new resources when you already have ones that you have been working with for a while? So, I think it’s a 14 part video series. But that is the easiest place to find it.

I am actually looking for a few people to be a beta test, be beta testers, sorry, because the course is technically finished, but I want somebody to make sure they’re … I want people to make sure they’re happy with it. So, I would love to have listeners, I’d love to have like five take a look at it beforehand and see like, “Yeah, this was great,” or, “Hey, maybe you could change this particular thing.” Because it’s different when you give it in person than when you do it online. There’s a slightly different element to that.

I’m always willing to answer questions because when it comes to the relationship between marketers and their agencies, you’re talking about very different kinds of teams. These are not the typical kinds of people who you work with like in your cube next door. They tend to be different mindsets, so if anyone ever has a question, you can easily find me at [email protected] I’m more than willing to answer the questions.

I haven’t been blogging but I’ve had lots of people ask me if I would start. So this might be the perfect thing for me to actually answer in a blog, without naming names of clients or anything, but to be able to kind of address those questions. So, I’m happy to do that as well. They can also find me on Twitter, I’m @OKsuziMarketing, and I try to share things that are related to kind of different aspects of marketing and how do you just become a better client? How do you become a better marketer, and things related specifically to being better in what is creating that relationship with your marketing agency.

So, those are kind of all the ways that people can find me online. And then you can also find me on Facebook. I’m just OKSuzi Marketing on Facebook. So, I’m trying to be better about sharing things on the World Wide Web. When you’re in with your clients, and I’m sure you can relate, like when you’re in and trying to make things happen for your clients, sometimes you forget to hold your head up and look around and share knowledge kind of in a broader sense. So, I’m trying to be better about doing that and be more consistent. So, that’s a work in progress.

Stacy: 53:18   

Well, I think today, you hit the nail on the head with your ability to share and educate and teach, and you definitely held your head high above your workload. So thank you so much. You provided a tremendous amount of valuable advice. Everyone, this is Suzanne Brown. So again, thank you so much. I really do appreciate it. You were fantastic. This was really, really great.

Suzanne: 53:38 

So this was amazing. Thank you so much.

Stacy: 53:40  

Thank you.

Suzanne: 53:41

I can’t wait for our paths to keep crossing.

Stacy: 53:44  

Yes, and it will be very exciting for you for marketing your online course, because, you know, that’s a whole new thing for all of us to learn, right?

Suzanne: 53:54   

Yes. But I’m up for it. I’m totally up for it. It’ll be good.

Stacy: 53:54  

Me too.

Suzanne: 53:54

All right.

Stacy: 54:01 

I will talk to you a little later. Okay, thanks.

Suzanne: 54:01 

Okay, bye.

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Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them Reviews 

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Stacy is a brilliant branding strategist and she really knows how to bring out the best in her guests! This show is fun AND educational! If you’re looking to understand the world of marketing, branding, digital marketing, influencer marketing and more, look no further. This show has awesome insight into some of the greatest marketing minds out there today, and they provide practical advice you can use in your business today. #FanForLife

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Practical and pointed advice.

Stacy does a really great job making this a highly actionable podcast for business owners. With a focus on marketing, she covers a wide range of related topics as well and is always very specific with her questions so that the listener gets pointed advice instead of vague concepts to take away. It’s also really helpful to the hear the why behind any marketing tactic so that we can decide if something sounds like a good fit for where we are at in this moment.

Love this marketing podcast!

Lori has a way of finding new insights to share every week. I loved being a guest, but I enjoy hearing her many fascinating conversations with other marketers even more. Great show!

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I absolutely loved being on this podcast! Stacey is amazing – real, down to earth, and genuinely curious and interested in learning – this makes for a very engaging conversation and valuable podcast!

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