Editor's note: We invited prominent agri-marketers to provide their insight into their organizations' expectations of their marketing communications agencies and their measures of success.
JOHN DEERE CREDIT, JOHNSTON, IA
by Dave Patterson, Manager, Marketing Communications & Direct Marketing
At John Deere Credit we utilize three primary agencies. These agencies are: Bader Rutter and Associates, Milwaukee, WI; Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, IA; and YamamotoMossMackenzie, Minneapolis, MN.
We expect all three of our core agencies to deliver (1) responsive service; (2) sound audience/customer insights (which I believe is the driver of good strategic thinking); (3) relevant, high impact ideas/creative; and (4) thoughtful perspective about our business and the subsequent communications needs/opportunities ... all of which should work together to generate new/better integrated marketing communications strategies and tactics.
We measure the success of working with each of our agencies in two ways:
1. The work the agency delivers, and the subsequent results that work helps deliver in the marketplace.
2. The strength of the relationship with the agency; that is, how well/effectively are we working together.
To put definition and clarity around these two areas, each year we have our marketing/communications personnel at John Deere Credit evaluate, via survey, the agency performance in several key areas, including account service, creative, and so on.
At the same time, our agency team evaluates our John Deere Credit team members on several relevant areas.
Then we sit down together, review the results, and decide how we can work even better together.
In addition, our Marketing Communications team at John Deere Credit now meets regularly to discuss agency performance. We organize the discussion around three areas of performance that we feel need to be balanced: (1) Service, (2) Strategy and (3) Creative. We're finding this approach gives us a sound, yet informal structure to review agency performance on an on-going basis throughout the year.
Bottom line: I know there are plenty of talented, capable people who work for a variety of agencies. Thus, in the long run, I believe the real driver of success between company and agency is the chemistry and trust that you build together over time.
Because with that chemistry and trust comes truly open dialogue and free sharing of information, which then creates an environment most conducive to generating powerful, market-moving ideas.
SYNGENTA SEEDS GOLDEN VALLEY, MN
by Thomas Gahm, Head of Communications
Is your agency asking the questions that keep you "on brand?"
As marketers we're continually striving for all the communications and actions of our business to contribute to building the brand.
If the three hallmarks of an effective brand are distinctiveness, relevance and consistency — then it is the agency's role to help us stay true to those standards. In fact, the agency is well-served to hold its recommendation — strategic or creative — to this litmus test before ever bringing it from the war room, back room, round table, or wherever it is good ideas come from.
As an agency, why not ask yourself these questions before bringing ideas to your clients? In fact, incorporate these answers into your presentation of the idea — even if the client doesn't ask the questions. Doing so will enhance the value of the idea.
How is the strategy or creative execution we are recommending going to differentiate this brand from all the other choices the customer has?
What new information are we bringing to the target audience?
What's going to make the target notice, remember and act on this communication?
Could anyone else say the same thing?
Distinctiveness alone isn't enough. Creativity is fun, but without relevance to the target audience even the award-winning idea doesn't build the brand.
How are we engaging the target audience with this idea?
What's our promise?
Where's the proof of value to the customer or stakeholder?
The communication must be consistent with the values of the company and the promise it is making in the marketplace.
How does this message link to this company?
How do the words, images, and tone support our brand?
Is there any question this information is coming from us?
If you are a client with an agency that helps keep you on brand by incorporating these questions into virtually everything they say and do for your business, you have the right agency. It proves they know your business, your products, your customers, and best of all, they are keeping up with the changing market forces that affect your business.
CLAAS NORTH AMERICA, OMAHA, NE
by Bob Armstrong, Product Marketing Manager
CLAAS marketing attempts to increase demand for our products while building awareness of our industry leading technology and engineering. In doing so, we expect our agency to be an advertising and media consultant to aid in aligning our sales and marketing strategies.
Without the trust of your agency or the people there within, the relationship isn't going to work. This trust begins with open lines of communication from development and implementation down to the final invoices.
We expect our agency to have a solid base of knowledge and experience in the agricultural. In addition, we must be able utilize our agency as a point of contact for media representatives to help publicize our company and products.
Although we do not expect our agency to know each and every component or process within our machines, it is important that they have a basic concept of our products. As the relationship grows we anticipate that they will increase their ability to speak about our products from a more technical standpoint and provide new ways to market desirable qualities or competitive advantages our products contain.
We measure our agency's success based a number of factors. The term ROI comes to mind as we track incentive campaigns and actions taken by our targeted customer groups. We are continually attempting to minimize ineffective coverage and niche our products with the appropriate buyers.
Often, measuring a campaign or advertisement is as simple as asking producers how they feel about our machines and the brand that stands behind them. As we analyze our sales strategies it is important to take these perceptions into account and make sure that we are conveying the right image into the marketplace.
Although advertising awards may not directly sell machines, they are a good gauge of how well we are "thinking outside the box" or portraying our brand against competition. At the end of the day, we look to reinforce the profitable relationships we build with our customers and dealers.