By Amanda Crangle

Imagine, for a moment, that you are on a reality TV show. The goal is to be married to someone you don’t really know, rarely see, and infrequently talk to. The person is supposed to manage your finances, pick up groceries, and maintain a couple of rooms in the house. You are to handle the rest of the rooms, the yardwork, and the cooking.

How long do you think this partnership will last with little communication? How long before the groceries being picked up aren’t what you want to cook? How long before you start to wonder how well the finances are being handled?

The frustration would be palpable before too long.

But so often, businesses get into partnerships with marketing agencies, insurance companies, tax professionals, and suppliers they rarely see and infrequently talk to. They all contribute to the same company, but goals may or may not be aligned—especially as time ticks by in silence.

When I began working at a water-treatment dealership in 2008, I remember calling our marketing agency to ask what campaigns it had been running, how the campaigns were performing, and what the cost breakdowns were. All I heard was crickets.

That experience sparked a fire in me and my team to help water-treatment dealers know what marketing was working and why it was working, and to be transparent with the strategy we employed.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is that mastering the basics is much harder than performing more complex tasks. But once the basics are solid, everything that follows seems simpler.

The same can be said for preparing ourselves to be good business partners. We must endure the drudgery of mastering the basics. Ensuring we know our mission, vision, values, target audience, value propositions, brand identity, and long-term objectives and goals is vital.

In this article, I’ll share the importance of communication and true partnership when working with your marketing team, actionable ways to engage your marketing partner, what questions to ask to ensure your marketing partner’s goals are aligned with yours, and how to hold your team and your partner’s team accountable so you can achieve more together.

Step 1: Establish clear communication channels and expectations.
The first step toward success in your partnership with a marketing team is to establish clear communication channels and expectations. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Articulate your goals. Clearly communicate your vision, mission, and long-term objectives to your marketing part­ner. Help your partner understand what you aim to achieve and how it can contribute to your overall success. I often speak to business owners who have no idea how many leads they are currently generating, what an average cost per lead should be, or what a target monthly budget should be. The owner may say, “Well, you’re the expert. You tell me.” This is a big red flag. Many marketing companies are new to the industry and don’t know this information. The business owners should do their due diligence and business evaluation and talk to similar businesses to understand these metrics and avoid leaving the marketing company to dictate what’s acceptable and what’s not.
  • Set regular communication meetings. Schedule regular meetings to foster open dialogue. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss progress, address concerns, and align strategies.
  • Share insight and listen. Create a collaborative environ­ment where both parties can share insight and perspec­tives. Listen to your marketing partner’s expertise and leverage its specialized knowledge to benefit your business.
  • Establish reporting systems. Implement a transparent re­porting system that provides regular updates on campaign performance, key metrics, and return on investment. This data-driven approach enables informed decision-making and evaluation of marketing initiatives.

Step 2: Ensure goal alignment and accountability.
The second step involves defining expectations:

  • Ask the right questions. During the selection process, ask potential marketing partners about their approach, indus­try understanding, and experience with similar businesses. Seek a partner that shares your values, understands your target audience, and is committed to achieving your goals. While you may not fully understand the “how” behind what they do, ask anyway, especially when it comes to how per­formance goals will be tracked.
  • Define key performance indicators (KPIs). Collaborative­ly set clear expectations and KPIs that both parties can track and measure. These KPIs should be aligned with your overall objectives and provide a framework for evaluating progress.
  • Conduct regular performance reviews. Performance reviews assess progress toward the established KPIs. The review process helps identify areas for improvement, celebrates successes, and ensures both parties are accountable for the results.
  • Foster shared responsibility. Create a sense of shared responsibility by encouraging open dialogue, trust, and a commitment to achieving greatness together. Each party should take ownership of its respective role and actively contribute to the shared vision of success.

Step 3: Mutually commit to ongoing improvement and growth.
The third step is to foster a culture of continuous improvement within the partnership. This involves the following:

  • Learn and adapt. Embrace a mind-set of learning and adaptation. Stay updated on industry trends, new market­ing strategies, and emerging technologies. Encourage your marketing partner to bring innovative ideas to the table, and be open to exploring new approaches.
  • Provide feedback. Regularly provide constructive feedback to your marketing partner. This feedback loop allows for strategy adjustments and refinements, ensuring consistent goal alignment.
  • Feed lead data back to your marketers. When generating leads, most marketing companies don’t know what hap­pens after someone submits a form or calls a call-tracking number from your website or ads. Having a system that tells the marketing team what is happening with the leads is important for improvement.
  • Nurture the relationship. Cultivate a strong working relationship with your marketing partner based on trust, mutual respect, and effective communication. Regularly check in, address any concerns or challenges, and celebrate successes together.

By following these three steps, you can create a system for marketing success. Establishing clear communication channels and expectations will ensure goal alignment, accountability, and continuous improvement. You and your marketing partner will evolve together to achieve your marketing objectives. Remember, a strong partnership is built on open dialogue, shared responsibility, and a commitment to excellence.

About the author
Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water-treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water-treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend, and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager.


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