How to work with an Ad Agency as a Product Marketing Manager

As a product marketing manager, you may be interested in scaling up your digital advertising efforts, but also hesitant about working with an agency. Maybe you’ve never worked with one before, or maybe you’ve had a bad experience that’s put you off.
Recently, I was at a seminar where I was able to ask a senior director of product marketing for a SaaS company how he would like ad agencies to work with him. He laughed, and said that he’d like them to come to him with great ideas that they’ve already thought through. I thought on this, and while it’s never that easy, there are some ways to make working with a digital agency much more productive. Here are some tips that you can use to make working with agencies easier.

1. Share customer research and marketing strategy.

Any good agency will want to understand your product, your customers, and your competitive positioning. These are used in a few ways. First, any customer research you’ve done helps us target your customers more effectively. More effective targeting gives you visitors who are more likely to convert, thereby lowering your customer acquisition cost. The most important targeting is behavior (why people buy your product), rather than demographic (age, insterests, etc). Knowing the target behavior helps your agency select the right keywords and create the most targeted copy that will speak to your most attractive customer segment.
Second, your agency will want to understand your product’s benefits, and its best features relative to the competition. This will allow us to create copy that positions your product in its best light. It’s important to remember that no advertising happens in a vacuum. Your competition’s ads are displaying there right next to yours, it’s critical to give your agency help in displaying your product in its best light relative to your competition. So any research you have, whether proprietary or done by a research agency, can be very helpful to your agency in building your campaigns.

2. Communicate your Budget and Customer Acquisition Cost goals

Good agency peformance comes by setting clear numeric goals. Your agency will want to know how much it’s allowable to spend to acquire a customer, or your target ROAS (return on ad spend, how much revenue must be generated for every ad dollar spent), and your overall budget. So if you give your agency a hard limit, like “Spend up to $60 to acquire a customer, and get as many as you can. Spend no more than $10,000 per month”, or “We want a ROAS of 2.4 — We want to earn $2.4 in revenue for every $1 we spend, up to $20,000 in spend per month”. Both of these are clear directives. By giving clear direction on your numbers, your agency can now get to work with clear direction to get you the right-priced leads.

3. Be open to testing different messaging

The main way to drive higher ROI in digital ads is to lower acqusition costs, and this comes through better messaging. Better messaging results from trying out different types of ad copy. It also comes from allowing your agency to target long-tail search terms that they may have discovered in their research. Customers may be searching for your product as part of their specialty (“Best CRM for Real Estate”), or for a specific function (“CRM with drip email campaigns”). As your agency surfaces interesting keyword research, let them try new messaging and targeting that may produce higher ROI. In addition to getting higher digital ROI, you may learn interesting facts about your customer base that let you market more effectively overall.

If you do these three things: share your marketing strategy, your cost and budget expectations, and allow your agency some room to try different approaches, your agency will be well prepared to understand what you’re trying do, cost levels and expectations, and what flexibility they have to experiment to help you lower your costs. Here’s to more productive client / agency relationships.