Onboarding a new content agency can sometimes mean a little bit of pain, or sometimes quite a lot. To a certain extent, that’s up to you.
Episode 5 of our “How to choose a content agency” podcast series looks at routes to a painless onboarding process. If you’re about to choose and onboard an agency you should listen to the entire episode, but here are a few of the key points, discussed by Collective Content’s Becky Thompson and Fiona Skilton.
Know your own company’s procurement processes. Larger companies will have legal and procurement teams working on supplier agreements. With smaller companies, it may just be managed by an in-house lawyer, or even the founder. Find out if there is any leeway for the agency to start work before the agreement is signed and the onboarding process complete – even with big companies there can be some flexibility. Sometimes there won’t be, but even in that situation a good agency will bend over backwards to prepare, doing work or research in advance of a start date –especially if the intention is to forge a long-term relationship.
Can the master services agreement be tweaked? Standard agreements from big companies can run to 60 pages or more. As well as the basics (names, addresses, bank details etc) it’s standard to ask about privacy, data storage, GDPR compliance, dispute resolution, break clauses and exchange rates. Think about what the agency will be doing for you and find out if there are any elements that can be waived or changed, especially if you are a large company dealing with a small agency. Does the agency need to be ISO27001 accredited to write you an e-book?
Think about ‘re-onboarding’. When the contract expires you may want the agency to sign another contract, though in all likelihood, the master services agreement favoured by your procurement and legal teams will have changed by that stage. All hail the client that diarises a contract transition meeting in advance and can provide a new contract with tracked changes, so the agency can see what’s new. This will speed things up a lot.
Be clear about billing if you are a global company. If your headquarters are in the US and this is where the bills are paid, then cover that off early. The agency will need to have the correct tax paperwork in place, or else at least some payments are likely to be withheld. This increases the likelihood of disputes and certainly will mean energy expelled on both sides on something that should have been resolved at an earlier stage.
If you are a small company, then consider asking the agency to guide you through the process. You may have signed only a few similar contracts – or perhaps none at all – whereas an established agency will have signed many. And probably several with companies the same size and in the same industry as yours. On many occasions, we’re asked to help iron out clauses and answer questions by companies that don’t have large procurement and legal teams.
Have open and honest conversations. Some of the hoops agencies are asked to jump through are tricky to say the least. But most of these issues can be solved with open and honest conversations between the agency on one side and marketing and procurement teams on the client side.
Make onboarding activities a priority. Do the hard work to get onboarding over the line so you can get going with the relationship and the work. If onboarding is not fully complete there will be an element of workarounds hanging over the engagement, which isn’t ideal for any relationship.
For more insights, and further discussion, find our podcast episode on this exact topic, available here.