Having an agency with a great track record with other clients is a good start, but if you don't manage them properly to take the most advantage of them, you could be spending the money unproductively. If you are a multinational company or have an international (or multilingual) websites, the chances are you are dealing with multiple agencies. Imagine the challenges of managing multiple agencies effectively. Since the '90s, I've worked with a number of companies as a consultant, sometimes as a part of their in-house team, and saw different agency relationships. Some worked well, and some were disastrous. Here are some tips for successfully managing multiple agencies.
Select the right tool set
If you are working with multiple agencies, you are probably dealing with a number of different tools. A couple of SEO tools, several paid management tools, and analytics tools, etc. You are using multiple tools because:
But, it doesn't have to be this way.
First, I suggest that you research for a tool that works for all of your target market and the languages. The good news is that more and more of the mainstream tools, including SEO, PPC, analytics, and some social, are expanding the coverage to include more engines, languages, and countries. By slimming down the number of tool sets to what you really need, you'll save a lot of money in the tool fees. This will also save you from the nightmare of having to learn how to use hundreds of tools.
Next, you should definitely subscribe to the tools by yourself. You should be the account owner so that you'll own the data, and have the access to your database anytime. Being the account owner also helps when you need to change the agency.
Standardize the reporting
Each agency has their unique way of preparing the report. The graphs look different. Some use a pie chart, and others use a bar graph. You try to compare the numbers, and notice that some data show up on one, but not on other reports.
It's alright to ask all agencies to use the same reporting template (really, you should). This way you can assure you get the same set of information you want from everyone. You could pick a report that you like among the ones you are currently receiving, and ask other agencies to use the format, or come up with your own template by combining the information and format you like from each report.
Image from Shutterstock.
Remove the duplicate efforts
Oftentimes, the agency presents the proposal based on their standard service model. It looks good, and you go with it. What you don't realize is that some of the work may be already done by other agencies.
For example, if you have already done a site audit, you don't need another agency to review the site structure and page templates just because it's there for a different market or different language, unless you are hiring another agency to review a different website, which has a completely different setup.
Just like you save money by reviewing the tool set, you will save a lot of money by reviewing the "scope of work" on the contract with each agency, and removing the duplicate work. Think about the reason why you are hiring another agency, and contract them to do those specific tasks. It helps managing it if you create a work chart and identify who is responsible for each task.
Demand the unified approach
One of the biggest headaches you have when working with multiple agencies is that each agency has its own way of attaining the goals. As a result, a part of your site mutates into a completely different look, feel, and message. An agency in Japan may believe that the link building is the only way to improve the SEO ranking, while an agency in U.K. wants to focus on the content. Some agency may say that it's a waste of time doing SEO and you should just spend tons of money on the paid campaigns.
While it's important to incorporate the local specific trend and needs into the project, you want all agencies to follow your guidelines to approaching the projects. Hiring agencies doesn't mean that you don't need to know what they do as long as they bring the results. Ask them to explain how they came up with the proposed methodology. Educate yourself with the basic best practices for SEO, paid, and whatever you are hiring the agencies for. Decide which methodology goes well with your corporate policy and to reach the business goals. Then, demand all agencies to follow that methodology.
I've encountered some agencies who didn't want to share any of the information, even the client's own data, as they didn't want to disclose their "knowledge" or "tactics." Personally, you don't need to hire anyone who takes your money, but doesn't want to explain how they are spending it.
I really believe that the projects become very efficient when a client has a good control of the project and knows what they want, especially when they are dealing with multiple agencies. It takes a bit of homework on your side, but the return is huge. When the agencies work together by following the same standards to reach your business goals, managing the multiple agencies becomes easy.
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Since Motoko established AJPR in 1998, she has been providing the online marketing services targeting Japan and Asia to companies from around the world, helping them to enter the regional market using the Internet. Her search marketing consulting services with her extensive knowledge of Asia and Japanese market have been highly valued and made big impact on some of the world's popular multi-national brands' search marketing campaigns.
A number of her articles have been published on industry websites and printed media including Multilingual Computing and International Journal of Localization. She also writes about the Japanese online market on her blog and Multilingual-Search.com. She's a frequent speaker at search marketing conferences globally, and gives seminars and trainings about search marketing targeting Japan and Asia.
Prior to entering the online marketing industry in the mid 90's, she worked as a senior marketing manager at a traditional marketing and trading firm, marketing U.S. products to Japanese government and heavy industries.
She believes in giving back to the community and volunteers her time for industry organizations. She served as a member of Board of Directors of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), and is a Chairman of SEMPO Asia-Pacific Committee. In March 2009, she received the first SEMPO President Award for her support and dedication to the search industry and SEMPO organization.