Tips on How to Effectively Manage an Outside Vendor
There are many benefits to hiring an outside vendor for creative work, not the least of which is that it’s typically less expensive to use an agency or contractor over hiring a full-time, in-house team. It’s also relatively easy to replace a vendor that’s not performing. Oftentimes, however, the reason that a vendor isn’t performing up to expectations has to do with poor management. Learning how to effectively work with a vendor can make both sides successful.
Provide an Outline of Your Business or Marketing Plan
A creative vendor needs a foundation on which they can build ideas and campaigns. This foundation is usually the business or marketing plan. The agency you hire needs access to market research, target audience (including pain points) information, background on your company/industry and any existing messaging, branding and marketing materials.
Also provide any logos, legal information, guidelines, required graphic sizes, etc. The more information you provide to the creative team in the beginning, the better the final outcome will be.
Establish a Communication Process – Especially a Main Point of Contact
When working with an agency, you will usually meet with several different people at the onset of the engagement. One of these people, however, will be your businesses main contact. Typically, this is the account manager, but that may differ depending on how large the team is. Once the agency contact is determined, establish a single point of contact on your businesses end to work with creative contact.
Again, your business may have several different people involved with the project, but one person should be responsible for taking all the disparate ideas, comments or concerns of the stakeholders and pulling them together. Vendors will be confused if they receive many different, conflicting ideas and plans of action.
Also, establish how communication will work. Will you have daily, weekly or biweekly meetings? Will the meetings take place in-house or over the phone? Should the vendor send weekly or daily email reports on the status of projects? Set communication expectations from the beginning.
Allow Creative Vision
Once the vendor receives all necessary background information, they’ll use this and possibly new research to come up with an overall vision for the project. Let them run with the information, and come back with their ideas. Give deadlines for presentations, but don’t micromanage the vendor. Review the ideas, and remember that the whole point was to get an outside view.
This is especially important if your business has deadlines of its own, i.e. launch dates, events, campaign start dates, etc. Establish when research, proposals and materials are needed. If the vendor will be doing content creation, create an editorial calendar that shows due dates for initial drafts, review times and who’s responsible for doing what.
Evaluate In-house Resources
While your company may outsource a project, it still requires some commitment from in-house staff. Verify that there are resources available to review and provide feedback on ideas and materials, and time to guide the vendor. The initial product is likely not going to be exactly what you were looking for on the first attempt. The vendor will need some assistance getting to the final concept.
Think about these questions: Do you a team member that has the bandwidth to work with the vendor? Is there buy-in from the company? Does your company even have enough money to implement the idea? If the answer to any of these questions are no, then this might not be the right time to start a project.
Review Expectations and Evaluate
Measure the success of campaigns and determine what did and did not work with the audience. Provide this information to the outsourced team. Evaluate how well the vendor did, and communicate where improvements could be made for future projects.
While creatives will also try to measure on their end, they may not have access to all of the in-house evaluation tools. Tell them how successful the project was. They can use this information to improve future materials and messaging.