Have Multiple Marketing Agencies? Here’s How to Keep It From Hurting Your Business

Chase Roberts posted this in
General, HVAC
on March 20th, 2014

When you think of “Disney” what comes to your mind? Fun? Adventure? Happiness? The Lion King?

What about when people think of your company? Do some people see you as cheap while others think you are high-quality? Or perhaps your regulars know you’re an innovator but others see you as the same as all your competitors.

There could be many reasons for this “split personality”. But it’s usually caused by the different ways you market yourself online and offline due to having multiple marketing agencies.

For example, many companies behave much differently on social media than they do on their direct mail, television and other mass media channels because multiple teams are behind the wheel.

This inconsistency usually hurts their image and their profits.

Why inconsistency hurts your company

If your brand isn’t consistent, then it’s not memorable. If it’s not memorable, then there’s no way you’ll be top-of-mind when your target audience needs someone to solve their problem.

For example, let’s say you think, “I need high-quality running shoes.” Nike might come to mind first because “high quality” is the message they convey—and they do it consistently. If, at any point, they tried to market themselves as an affordable pair of shoes, the brand loses its luster due to mixed messaging.

Kevan Gilbert on the Gather Content blog says it best: “Consistency is memorable- As you aim to deliver great experiences for your customers, giving them a consistent encounter can help build loyalty.”

When all your marketing works together, you have integrated marketing communications (IMC). Everything is consistent. And that rocks for your company.

So how do you know if your company has a split personality? Here are some signs.

Companies that usually have a split personality

Your marketing probably has a split personality if you:

  • Do traditional marketing in-house but hired an agency for your online marketing (or vice versa).
  • Have multiple agencies doing your online marketing (someone runs your social media, and someone else does your blogging and email marketing).
  • Have an agency doing traditional marketing and another agency doing online marketing.

Basically, having more marketing teams means more chances for inconsistencies. Of course, we’re not saying you shouldn’t have multiple agencies. (We actually encourage it many times since different agencies have different specialties.) But it can be difficult to do it right and be consistent.

To achieve consistency, you must make sure all your marketers are synced on these issues:

  • Business objectives
  • Messaging
  • Voice and tone

1) Business objectives (what you’re working towards)

Are you crystal clear with all your marketing teams about what your business is trying to achieve? Or is everyone on their own island achieving what they think is important to your business?

If your objectives change in the next quarter, will all your marketing teams be aware of these changes?

For example, let’s say you’re an HVAC company and last year’s objective was to increase the number of installations you do by 15%. But this year, you want to increase the number of maintenance agreements you sell by 20%.

Imagine your traditional marketers know about this change, but your online marketers don’t. You have two groups trying to achieve two different objectives.

Solution: Keep those communication lines open! When your objectives change, ensure you update your all your marketers. Or set up quarterly meetings with your teams to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s that simple.

2) Messaging (what you’re trying to say)

OK, so everyone is on the same page about what your company’s objectives are. Let’s stick with increasing the maintenance agreements by 20% this year as the objective.

But are all your marketing channels communicating the same thing to achieve that goal? Or are they working against each other?

For example, your social media channels may be communicating that you’re a quality leader (e.g.,“Our maintenance visits go above and beyond keep your A/C and furnace efficient.”)

But your radio ads are communicating that you’re a low-cost leader (e.g.,“Get affordable A/C and furnace maintenance agreements—only $200 a year!”). These inconsistencies confuse your audience and weaken your brand.

Solution: Create a message architecture that all your marketing teams can pull from. Content Strategist Margot Bloomstein defines this as “a hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary.” OK, so what the heck does that mean?

Break this buzzword down:

  • “Message”= What you’re saying.
  • “Architecture”= Structure (prioritization).

Basically, a message architecture prioritizes what you want to say about your company so your marketing teams know what’s most important to communicate to your target audience.

With this in place, you won’t have one agency promoting you’re a low-cost leader while the other is saying you’re the best quality contractor in the area.

Here’s an example of a message architecture from Furman University:

RIGOROUS EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE

  • Innovative with regard to attracting applicants and delivering a high-quality experience
  • Premium, leading edge

GRACIOUS AND DISCERNING

  • Selective but accessible
  • Approachable, welcoming, hospitable
  • Community-minded and community-building in an inspiring environment

HOLISTIC BUT PRACTICAL LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION

  • Value-oriented
  • Fun

As you can see, the college wants to be known as “premium” and “fun”. But premium is higher up on the message architecture, so it’s emphasized more.

Bloomstein goes into the process of creating a message architecture in her book Content Strategy at Work: Real-world Stories to Strengthen Every Interactive Project.

You can learn more about it in her Confab presentation.

3) Voice and tone (how your company sounds—your personality)

OK, so now all your marketers know your objectives and are on the same page on what to say.

But do they know HOW to say it?

This might seem nitpicky, but it’s not.

Attitude is everything. Your personality makes or breaks friendships. So why would you expect any less when trying to build relationships with your target audience?

So you need to make sure your company’s voice—how you sound, the personality—is synced across all your marketing channels.

Solution: Create a voice and tone guide. This document details your company’s personality and how that personality’s tone changes based on the situation or channel.

Here’s an example of a voice and tone guide from Mailchimp.

Read this article on creating a voice and tone guide to find out how to:

  • Get your CEO/business owner involved with the creating the guide
  • Explain the guide to your marketers
  • Store the guide online so its easy for everyone to find

Next steps

First, set up a meeting where all your marketing agencies can meet and get on the same page.

Discuss things in this order:

  • Business objectives
  • Messaging
  • Voice and tone

Yes, it’s the order I’ve presented them in this article because that’s the order of importance.

So, do you feel like your company’s marketing has a split personality? How so?

Let me know on Facebook!

Chase Roberts

Web Copywriter

Yes, ladies, that southern drawl is authentic. Chase hails from a small town in Alabama. He loves sweet tea and all the bacon. But, in between consumption of these favorite treats, he plans and writes the copy for Rocket Media’s clients.