How to challenge your in-house marketing team or digital agency?

Avatar Tine Naegels

By Tine Naegels

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Challenging your marketing team? That's pure gold. It’s not about micromanaging them. No, it's about growth, new insights, and jointly smashing business growth. Give them space but keep your finger on the pulse. It's that simple.

Let’s dive in: how to challenge your team and agency?

  1. Set clear expectations from day one

  2. Evaluate and find gaps in their expertise

  3. Transparency in everything is crucial

  4. Ensure regular check-ins and excellent communication between all parties

  5. Create an environment with proactive and flexible collaboration

  6. You cannot work without constructive feedback

  7. Dare to self-reflect

1. Clear Expectations? Always.

Start with clear language. What do you expect? When? And how? This is your foundation. Not just for the metrics but also for your team's vibe. Make sure they get it, feel it, and rock it.

  • Previous leadership? No excuses! It doesn't matter how the previous manager led; now it's your turn. Your leadership, your rules.

  • Document everything: create your playbook. What are the daily routines, the must-dos, and the no-gos? Put it in black and white so that everyone knows what the deal is.

  • Set the framework: what's the goal? What are the limits? What do you expect in terms of results, and when? Make it real, measurable, and achievable.

  • Your role, their script: clarify your role as a coach. How often will you check in? In what way? They need to know you're there to guide, not micromanage.

  • Results ≠ Everything: of course, results count. But they're not the only thing that matters. Don’t put all your eggs in one ROI basket.

  • Reality check: new to the game or an old hand, expectations must be realistic. Remember: market changes, budget fluctuations, competitive moves – it all plays a part.

  • Look beyond the numbers: are the results lacking? Ask for the 'why.' A strong team knows its weaknesses and already has a plan to address them.

2. Check and stretch expertise

Top performances? They come from a top team. Are they up-to-date, or are they lagging? Spot the gaps and fill them. Training, bringing in new brains, everything to keep your team sharp. Because as they grow, your business grows.

  • Expertise is key: it seems obvious, but is everyone really up-to-date with the latest tricks and strategies in the marketing world? That social media wizard on your team, is he also an SEO guru? Or is there a gap that needs filling?

  • Regular skill-checks: put that expertise under the microscope. Where do they excel, and where could they use some magic? Encourage self-reflection and let them discover their own growth paths. This is where your leadership takes center stage.

  • Tailored development plans: each team member is unique. Set up personalized growth plans that not only challenge them but also support their professional journey. Mix and match training, workshops, and perhaps even new roles.

Now, regarding your marketing agency:
  • Are they strategic partners or just nodding heads? You want more than yes-men. You're looking for partners who proactively think along, who have your business growth in mind, and who offer strategies that resonate with your vision.

  • Certification check: are they certified in the tools you use? A partner skilled in Google Ads, Analytics, Facebook Ads, or any platform shows commitment and expertise.

  • Up-to-date and innovative: the digital world never stands still. Ask if they embrace the latest trends, platform updates, and innovations and how they integrate these into your strategies. Are they still running campaigns from two years ago, or are they forward-thinking and dynamic?

  • Knowledge and transparency: can they clearly explain which strategies work best and why during a briefing? Or does it feel like they need to do their homework before they can answer your questions?

By stretching, testing, and training your team and your agency, you ensure constant evolution, a dynamic that keeps you always a step ahead. Not only do the individuals within your team grow, but your entire business, your collective expertise, and the success of your marketing efforts do as well. Keep them sharp, keep them growing, and see how far they can go!

Of course, results count. But they're not the only thing that matters. Don’t put all your eggs in one ROI basket.

3. Transparency is key

Lay out the lines and share your vision. Why are those goals so important? The more they know, the better they perform. And check: do you possess all the login details, or is your agency still holding the wheel? Time to take back control!

Transparency transforms good teams into great ones. It's not just about sharing goals but also explaining the 'why' behind these goals. Here's how to do it:

  • Inspire and involve: show what you aim to achieve and why. When your team understands the bigger vision, they'll be more motivated to make it happen. Your job is to share not only the goals but also the passion behind them.

  • Full transparency: be clear about what's happening. Show what's happening in the campaigns and what the results are. This builds trust and makes your team members more engaged in their work.

Now, regarding the control of accounts:
  • Ownership of accounts: make sure your organization owns all the accounts. This prevents a lot of hassle if relationships with agencies change. It's your brand, your campaign, so it should be your ownership.

  • Independent access and control: can you, or your team, log in and view the data yourselves? Ensure you're not reliant on your agency for interpretations. They should be willing to teach you how to monitor this data yourself.

  • Real data, not just pretty pictures: don't accept polished reports. Real dashboards provide unfiltered data, straight from the source. This ensures you're getting the complete, accurate information, not something that's been tweaked to look better.

If your agency is hesitant to give you full access or transparency over the accounts, or if they don't show you the raw data, those are clear red flags. A healthy working relationship requires complete openness about tools, data, and performance. You have the right to know what's happening, your right to have control. Settle for nothing less. Your marketing, your rules.

4. Check-ins and top-notch communication

A smooth team? That's built on strong communication. What's working well, and where are the pinch points? Regularly check in, keep the lines open. This keeps everyone motivated and in sync.

  • Team harmony: ensure all team members effectively communicate with each other and with you as the leader. Incoherent communication can undermine your strategy. Whether it's meetings, Slack, emails, or any platform, the key is that it works and everyone is on the same page.

  • Regular check-ins: schedule at least bi-weekly sessions with each team member. These aren't just meetings; they're opportunities to delve into what everyone is occupied with, what's going well, and what could be improved. These moments are crucial for catching unspoken concerns or hidden gems of ideas.

  • Partnership with your agency: consider your external agency as an extension of your team. A monthly sync-up can work wonders. Are there obstacles? Are they missing information? Or can they immediately step in to lend a hand? This is the time to strengthen that synergy.

Now, focusing on the agency:
  • Strategy communication: how clear is the exchange about strategic directions and results? A top agency doesn't operate in a vacuum; it shares, advises, and consistently aligns with you to ensure every move is in line with business goals.

  • Quick responsiveness: a question should never remain unanswered for long. Excellent agencies act swiftly, regularly update, and keep you informed of every significant change or suggestion.

  • Insight into the full picture: as a marketing leader, you must always maintain an overview. Your agency and team members should be transparent about ongoing activities, previous results, and future plans. You should feel fully informed and in control of the direction you're collectively heading.

Maintaining these open lines creates an environment where everyone feels supported, and each team member and agency knows exactly what is expected of them. This keeps everyone motivated, engaged, and focused on the common goal.

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5. Proactive and flexible collaboration that rocks

A team that learns together is a team that wins together. Build a culture of trust and creativity. Flexible, proactive, and always ready to innovate. That's the team you want.

  • A culture that rocks: create an environment where trust is everything, openness is standard, and feedback sets the rhythm. Everyone should feel safe to voice their ideas, share their experiences, and express their doubts. We're here to lift each other up, not tear each other down.

  • Innovation is the beat: we want our team always ready to jam with new ideas. Ensure they're not stuck playing the old hits, but encourage them to try out new riffs and surprise the audience – our customers – with fresh tunes.

  • Thinking ahead, always: are we just reacting, or are we one step ahead? Our team, and yes, that includes our agency, should know the setlist before the concert starts. They need to not just follow the trends but anticipate them.

So, ask yourself these questions:
  • Are they in the groove? Don't let the agency just handle your requests; make sure they're providing you with proactive updates. Are they still performing the old routine, or are they coming up with fresh, exciting ideas that shake up the stage?

  • Thinking strategically, are they? The agency should not just execute your requests but also come up with strategies that electrify your audience – your target market.

If we're a band, then every player is essential for the success of our show. Ensure everyone knows their part but also be ready to improvise and take a solo when needed. This type of proactive, flexible collaboration not only betters our current hits but also ensures those future number-one singles.

You want more than yes-men. You're looking for partners who proactively think along with your business growth in mind.

6. Feedback: straight to the point

Honest feedback is worth its weight in gold. It's the fuel for growth and improvement. Provide it regularly, be specific, and celebrate the successes. This is how you build a team that continually evolves.

  • Constructive vibes only: it's all about empowering, not tearing down. Offer feedback that builds, coaches, and guides. Finding the exact words that encourage growth is an art, and you're holding the brush.

  • Learning and growth moments: consider feedback your secret weapon in the arsenal of team development. It's not just remarks; it's a launchpad for personal and professional growth. It shows your team members where they excel and where there's room for a solo.

  • Timing and tone: it's not just what you say, but how and when you say it. Timing is everything. Make sure your feedback moments are well-timed, so they resonate the most and have the greatest impact.

  • Celebrate every success: every highlight deserves a spotlight. Use feedback moments not just for coaching but also to cheer for victories, big or small. This boosts morale and motivates everyone to continue on this successful path.

7. Self-reflection: dare to look in the mirror

Are you the coach they need? Adjust your style, feel the rhythm of your team, and let them shine. Each team member is different, so move to their unique beat.

  • Be critical of yourself: after every evaluation round, reflect on what you've discovered. Are there areas for improvement? Don't hesitate to audit your own methods and refine them as necessary.

  • Align with individual needs: recognize that everyone has their own style of learning and growing. Some may need a nudge, while others require more space to flourish independently. Your task is to adapt your coaching style to benefit everyone.

  • Various tools and techniques: not every approach fits each team member. Experiment with different coaching methods, such as giving direct instructions, active listening, or posing open questions. Find out what works best and adjust your strategies accordingly.

  • Celebrate uniqueness: every person in your team possesses unique talents and strengths. By acknowledging and leveraging these, you can create an environment where everyone feels valued and their particular skills are utilized.

The right checks to transform your marketing team

There you have it: a cheat sheet to elevate your internal and external marketing team to the next level. Use it, live it, and watch your team and your results grow.

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