A Ag agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Deciding on an agency is not an easy task and it can be challenging and stressful to get it right and pick an agency that will make you and your team succeed. Keep these five tips in mind next time you’re on the hunt for a new ag agency partner.
1. Find Strategic Alignment
You'll need to know where you are going as a business to understand what you'll need in an agency. Typically, there are three models that you can implement when working with an agency.
First, there's the integrated model, which focuses on building a relationship based on strategy. The agency will assist in strategic planning and work collaboratively with the client to develop goals and objectives for the year. The agency is very involved in brainstorming comprehensive strategic solutions for the business, but the implementation of the plan lies heavily on the client's internal marketing team.
Second, the team extension model sees the agency as an external addition to the marketing team. The client is generally responsible for setting the strategic direction and objectives, while the agency develops and executes the solutions.
And finally, an in-house model keeps almost all the decision-making on the client side. The agency acts as a vendor, providing creative support when called upon for projects and tactical implementation.
None of these models are necessarily better than the other, but it's important to know what your options are when determining the type of agency relationship you need. Agencies specialize in different areas. Some focus on strategy and conceptual work, while others are more focused on execution and tactical implementation. Choosing the agency that's right for you starts with knowing what you need from an agency.
2. Seek Out Experience
The agriculture industry is unique in many ways. Different agribusiness segments come with specific operational challenges and nuances.
Ag companies can seek out an agency that either understands their customers and the industry, or they will look to find a "best in class" agency that may not have much ag experience but has proven performance in marketing and communications.
This can have mixed results. Generally, companies will try one way and then go back to the other, depending on their specific objectives and past agency experience. Neither approach is wrong; however, selecting an agency that is familiar with your operations and customers can ease the onboarding experience.
3. Look for a Digital Team and Portfolio
Digital capabilities are more important than ever. It often flies under the radar, but the ag industry is getting digital at a rapid clip and leading other industries in some ways. Growers are much more digitally savvy than many give them credit for, and you should find an agency that knows that.
Ask to see examples of what innovative things an agency has done in building an online presence. Do they have a full digital team? What kind of roles do they have within their digital team?
If digital is not a core competency, then that can be a big red flag.
4. Ask for More Than Metrics
In 2021, some agencies are still highlighting views, traffic and clicks as the most important metrics when showcasing campaign success.
But many ag companies have started to lean into sales & marketing alignment, which brings into question the value of generic metrics that have historically been the standard.
It's important to find an agency with experience building a connection between sales and marketing that drives relationship building, rather than clicks on a digital ad. Consider asking if an agency uses current sales enablement practices like customer journey mapping, service level agreement development and sales & marketing software (Salesforce, HubSpot, etc.).
It is no longer enough for an agency to simply showcase top-line awareness stats.
5. Dig into Market Trends and Insights
If your ag agency isn't up to speed on the latest trends in the industry, you run the risk of falling behind.
Find an agency that can authoritatively speak to what your customers are doing and how to reach them.
Do they develop thought leadership on key trends in the market? Do they have proprietary stats and research that will give you an edge over the competition? Do they know how broad trends in ag will affect the overall market like carbon pricing, agtech and precision agriculture?
Find an agency that is an authority when it comes to understanding your audience and the industry. This will save your team time and energy when finalizing your strategic marketing plans.
As you finalize your search for the right partner, consider ag agencies with similar values and a work culture that can easily mesh with you and your team. This can set the stage for a strong working relationship built on trust and respect.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Christian Blott – Client Development Executive
A graduate of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Christian finished the program with a major in Marketing and a minor in Agribusiness. His past roles involved working in market analysis for an oil and gas consultancy and doing policy analysis for the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.
At Think Shift, Christian works with the Sales and Marketing team to connect with potential clients and understand their brand, digital, and culture challenges. He especially enjoys helping ag companies elevate their digital capabilities to enhance their customer experience.