A to Z: Choosing an Outbound Agency Part 2
Last week we introduced some guidelines in selecting an Outbound Agency. Here in Part Deux we’ll look at some of the A’s. First off, lets clarify something; despite this being called Part Deux, it bears no resemblance to Hot Shots – Part Deux. There’s no Charlie Sheen (where has he gotten too lately?), no Hotshots and a significantly lower body count. Now we have that cleared up, let’s move on. There’s a few A’s to pick from in guiding your choice of an outbound agency, but this week we’ll look at two – Authenticity and Agreement.
We supposedly live in the age of Authenticity – you can’t have transparency without authenticity. This was the promise in the early days of the web. There is nowhere for dishonesty to hide as virtuous users and the web shine a light and lead us to truth, justice and the American way. Brand experts like Cohn & Wolf claim the high importance assigned to brand authenticity by the modern consumer. Their reports are compelling, so why do we see so many examples of the blatant lying that compromises brands, companies and people? It has gotten so bad we now legitimize it with phrases like “alternative facts”. It happens in the personal brands of a myriad of public figures to the customer service scandals of airlines, internet providers and the medical insurance industry. So, the message is “beware”. The truth is out there, but you have to dig for it. This applies equally when assessing outbound agencies. For example, you will still find companies that don’t reveal the names of the company leadership, are vague about their locations (they use terms like “global resources”) and even send emails from impersonal addresses like Bizdev@abc.com. In the last example, they either have high turnover in their own sales team or they cannot contemplate forging even a superficial relationship. Look for companies that don’t hide things or get evasive when asked questions about staffing, size, locations, leadership, pricing, output and ROI.
Choosing an outbound agency can go one of two ways. It will (and should) act as a rallying point, promoting collaboration between sales and marketing. If handled clumsily it will drive sales and marketing apart. This will delay the company’s success and be a Napoleonic Waterloo moment for someone. As H.O. Maycotte rightly points out in Forbes, agreeing on basic things like lead definitions are, well…basic. We all know this, so why are we still talking about it? It’s generally because despite reaching an initial agreement, things change, and one of the parties (sales or marketing) is unwilling to challenge the other in response to one party, for example, modifying a lead definition. As well as communicating on changes as the program evolves, Sales and Marketing must agree on why they are embarking on this initiative in the first place and what problem are they looking to solve. The CEO has to “facilitate” and then referee the early stages of this collaboration. It won’t happen on its own. It is not good enough to “leave them to it”, and neither should the CEO remain closely involved for too long.
The “Verto Verdict”
Ensure (as best you can) that you are dealing with honest people. This means doing some detective work, while acknowledging that in the modern world, like beauty, honesty seems to be in the eye of the beholder.
Make sure you are all clear why you are doing this. Explicitly agree (and document) the problem you are looking to solve, who is responsible for what, how you measure success, etc. And then be committed to seeing it through. That includes a willingness to confront challenges as they arise.
Good luck team. We’ll be back next week with the B’s of the “A to Z of Choosing an Outbound Agency", or maybe we'll come up with some more A's...Feel free to chime in with any I have missed!!