Each month in the Green Room we return backstage to pose a question to our Rockstar CMOs. This month Ian Truscott catches up with five of them and they share their advice on working with agencies. 

Aside from their generosity in replying to my questions and lending us their expertise, the cool thing about our Rockstar CMO community is we have a fabulous range of experience to call upon. 

They have taken a diverse range of products to market, both B2B and B2C, and of specific relevance to this Green Room discussion today is that this CMO super group have not just hired agencies, they’ve marketed to agencies and worked agency-side too. We get the complete picture when we ask this question:

What’s your top tip when working with agencies?

John Andrews

We love to work with agencies that have industry expertise. As a content creation platform, we want to focus on the functionality of our platform and making it easy to make beautiful, branded content. Agencies can leverage our tools to expand the reach of their creative work and manage the cadence and flow of content creation with their clients’ employees, partners and influencers. We believe it’s the perfect partnership for extending the reach and engagement of their work.

John Andrews is the head honcho at Photofy – a content creation app that enables users to transform ordinary photos into slick, professional images that can be easily shared on social platforms. Find out more about Photofy, and follow John on Twitter.

Christine Bailey

“Marketing requires such a broad skill set, it’s rare to have all the necessary expertise in-house. Plus you often don’t need specialist skills 100% of the time. I work with some fantastic agencies for support with market research/customer insights, PR, social, digital, lead gen, martech etc. 

The best way to work with agencies is to treat them as a partner or extension to your in-house team – make sure you have a good cultural match, keep them up to date with what’s going on, tell them when they’ve got it right (and when they’ve got it wrong). It’s a two-way street at the end of the day, and the best partnerships involve trust and mutual respect. If it’s not working, move on!”

Christine Bailey is CMO of Valitor, an international payment solutions company headquartered in Iceland. Forging a career in the tech sector, she’s led European marketing for Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, and writes frequently for Forbes Woman. Learn more about Christine in backstage Q&A here.

Wendy Bryant-Beswick

Agencies are a critical resource for marketing teams, now that there are so many different demands on our teams. They can help bring talent and skills into your group to execute certain types of programs.

But don’t think hiring an agency means you can sit back and let them do all the work! There’s a significant investment in the onboarding process, but that upfront education will pay dividends in the end.

Think of the agency as an extension of your business. Remember, the agency often doesn’t know your industry. You have to educate them on any regulatory restrictions, existing brand architectures and other requirements your organization has in place today. 

Having that blend of creativity, strong business knowledge and marketing technology will help you move the needle wherever you go.

Wendy Bryant-Beswick is an award-winning marketer with 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry. She is currently VP of Marketing at Service Credit Union. Go backstage with Wendy.

Ted Rubin

“Never, ever, outsource your brand personality and/or voice to an agency. I do not care how good they are or how many others they have done it for. Use them to support your efforts, outsource creative and busy work when/if need be, but maintain creative control AND direct contact with your customers at all costs. 

If you don’t know your people, and an agency certainly never truly will, you might as well toss your marketing dollars down the drain.”

Ted Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, Photofy CMO/advisor, MC/host for Brand Innovators Summits, speaker, author and provocateur. Ted is our resident rock star and tells it straight in his regular column.

Jenni Young

The bottom line is that you are choosing to work with a group of people. Your success will be determined (in the long run) by having a motivated, high-quality team working for you. When you’re choosing an agency, always get a chance to meet with the whole team.

How agencies deal with their own people gives you an idea of how they manage and motivate. Once you’ve selected an agency to work with, you need to trust them and treat them with respect. Set clear ground rules and deliverables. I’ve heard terrible stories about how some marketing teams treat agencies – it’s the quality of people that make the difference to your campaigns – so treat them as you would treat your own team.”

Jenni Young is Managing Director at Partnership for Growth & Innovation (LBHF & Imperial College London) and the CMO of Tappit, a cashless payment platform for event organizers. Go backstage with her here.


Although I have been client-side for most of my career, I did have the pleasure of working for the “Mad Men” at McCann London, and for a wonderful smaller agency in Washington D.C. (Tahzoo).

My advice from experience on both sides: Use agencies for skill and scale, don’t outsource your creative brains. Hire an agency as a creative buddy, or foil, to develop your ideas, to make them bold as part of the team. Working with a creative buddy is a joy and choose them with this in mind – as collaborators you can spend time with. (This came from some fantastic advice I got from a former boss that I wrote more about on my blog).

Oh, and be sure that you are not paying too high a tax for the PMs, AMs and ‘suits’ that come to every meeting – that you are paying for talent. 🙂

Thanks to John, Christine, Wendy, Ted and Jenni for stepping into the Green Room for this issue, some fantastic advice here. 

Agree? What would your advice be? Drop us a comment, tweet us or if you feel really strongly about it write for us, we accept guest articles.

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