Three Ways to Improve Collaboration Between Utilities and Agencies

5696_CoolCurrent_HowUtilitiesWorkWithAgencies

More effective and efficient marketing initiatives start with improved collaboration between utilities and their creative agencies. Learn three ways you can get started now.


Brand Cool recently participated in an invitation-only discussion with utilities about improving collaboration with marketing agencies. This can be a tricky subject because, while there is tremendous opportunity in improving collaboration, there are also a number of challenges in how utilities do—or don’t—engage with agencies. Our perspective covered a few key topics and fostered some great discussion with the group during and after the session. Following are three of the top insights we shared during our talk.

  1. Data doesn’t equal insight. Utilities have a dizzying amount of customer data and intel. Having worked in a number of sectors, I am particularly grateful for this wealth of information because it allows us to create richer customer profiles, more targeted approaches, and creative executions that are more relevant to how consumers actually engage with companies. At the same time, I believe you can also know too much, which can limit insight and creativity. We use insight to tighten our focus, determine the most effective approach, and put a stake in the ground in order to move forward. It is often an act of courage that requires marrying the quantitative “knowns” with more qualitative and intuitive assumptions. This mix is critical in creating compelling, life-changing connections with the people we seek to inspire—the type of connections that drive and sustain behavior change over the long term.
  2. Layered decision-making is costly and time-consuming. It’s no surprise to anyone reading this article that layered decision-making and internal spin are killers in our industry. They water down creative executions, load strategies with “preferred” tactics, and expand timelines and scopes of work unnecessarily. We feel our clients’ pain on this one. It’s not easy to check all the boxes and cover all the bases with work that also hits the target squarely and effectively.

    We work with clients across the utility industry and other sectors to help reduce this existing tension and risk by identifying which layers are necessary in the decision process and which are not. We also introduce strategies like group planning and creative reviews to bring multiple levels of decision-makers together to discuss our work. In addition to being more efficient, this collaborative approach also presents a huge opportunity for internal teams that don’t come together often to think more deeply about the customer experience, how their programmatic decisions affect communications, and where further strategic development is needed. This leads to more than a layout full of markups at the end of a session; it leads to better engagement inside and outside of the organization.
  1. Engaging your agency in strategy will always pay off. The best agency partners are strategists first and executional resources second. Many utilities are accustomed to engaging mostly on the executional end of the work. This is evident when marketing is packaged inside of implementation contracts in which tactics are often prescribed. This is a huge missed opportunity. Implementers are great at administering programs, but they often lack the research, marketing, and media analysis tools essential to be effective planners and creative strategists as well. When we are brought in to help define the strategy (or at the very least, when we are at the table while it’s coming together), execution is much more thoughtful, efficient, and on target. It’s important to know your agency roster and capabilities well, and it’s okay to view some agencies as a “go-to” resource for specific executions. You’ll be well-served to test all of them on strategic capabilities and assess how that might pay off in helping meet your marketing and business goals more efficiently and effectively.

Understanding how quality data drives deeper insight, streamlining complex decision processes, and engaging agencies as strategic partners are just the start. There are many more ways to build stronger collaborative processes between clients and the agencies they rely upon. To find what works best for you, start with these three insights and build the relationship from there. In end, improving collaboration with your marketing agencies will help foster a deeper understanding of the challenges you seek to solve, which will result in smarter, more meaningful solutions that resonate better with your target audience.