Many businesses outsource their marketing activities to external agencies. It is a great way to tap into specialized expertise and skills that may not be available in-house. However, partnering with a new marketing agency can be complicated, especially if the onboarding process is not well-planned. This often leads to missed opportunities and unrealized potential.

This post guides you in streamlining the onboarding process with an external digital marketing agency. We break down the onboarding process into simple steps, helping you understand what to expect and how to prepare for a successful partnership.

What to expect during marketing agency onboarding

The first step is to find the right marketing agency for your needs. Once you have done that, follow the below  steps to successfully onboard the marketing agency:

Step 1: Contract and scope of work alignment

The foundation of any effective onboarding process rests with the establishment of a clear and comprehensive contract. A signed contract serves as the blueprint for the entire partnership and ensures that both you and the agency have clear expectations when it comes to deliverables.

Here are the key elements to include in a contract:

  • Project timelines: The contract should clearly outline milestones, deadlines, and any time-sensitive requirements. Ultimately, both the marketing agency and you should have similar expectations regarding the pace of the project and avoid last-minute surprises.
  • Payment: You must also agree on the payment. Clearly outline the payment schedule, methods, and any additional costs involved.
  • Scope of work: Clearly outline the specific tasks, responsibilities, and deliverables expected from the marketing agency in the contract. You could also include a section in the contract that addresses how changes to the scope of work will be managed. For instance, you could highlight the workflow for scope creep and how it will impact timelines and costs.
  • Termination clause: Highlight the process for early termination. It could be due to a breach of contract or any unforeseen circumstances.
  • Confidentiality agreement: This is mainly to prevent sensitive information from getting leaked to any third party during the collaboration.

Pro Tip: When setting milestone dates, ensure they are achievable. Do not set unrealistic milestones that could lead to unwanted stress and compromise the quality of their work.

Step 2: Partnership kickoff and knowledge-sharing meeting

Once the contract has been finalized and signed, it is time to hop onto your first official meeting or what is popularly called the kickoff call. This meeting could happen telephonically, via video call, or in person.

Here’s why you should organize this meeting.

  • To give primary stakeholders from both sides the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their counterparts.
  • To establish expectations regarding communication, including regular check-ins, reporting frequency, and preferred channels.
  • To address any queries and help the agency gather comprehensive information about marketing operations. This could include details about your team dynamics, goals, and objectives.

As a best practice, always provide the following information to the marketing agency during the partnership kickoff calls:

  • A comprehensive overview of your business, its history, and core values.
  • Insights into your products or services, emphasizing what sets you apart in the market.
  • Necessary information about your target audience, including demographics, behaviors, and preferences.
  • A breakdown of key competitors, your competitive advantages, and the areas where you wish to outperform them.
  • Your short-term and long-term business objectives and how the initiatives of the agency can contribute to achieving these goals.

Step 3: Understanding your current processes, workflows, and systems

In this step, you help the agency understand your business's current MarTech landscape and operational workflows.

Start by giving an overview of your tech stack, APIs, internal systems, and details about your marketing channels. Also, explain your existing campaigns, including their performance. This will enable the agency to see what you have done so far, what’s working for you, and what isn’t.

Next, discuss the approval workflows of your digital assets. Agency members need to know where and how to access the most recent and approved versions of your assets that they can use in projects/campaigns.

You need to provide answers to questions like who they should reach out to for accessing different types of assets and how to check if the right person has approved the asset. If you are using Digital Asset Management (DAM) software, then media asset management workflows get simplified to a great extent. All you need to do is give controlled access of the DAM system to the agency so that they can retrieve the approved assets anytime from their own devices.

By understanding your current processes and systems, the agency will be able to:

  • Better identify redundancies and optimize the use of your existing MarTech infrastructure
  • Prevent unnecessary investments in marketing tools or platforms that may overlap with what you already have
  • Integrate their own systems and workflows efficiently with your existing infrastructure
  • Avoid disruptions to your existing workflows and ensure better efficiency

Step 4: Setting up the KPIs and goals

This stage is all about strategically identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your business and marketing objectives and sharing them with the agency. The agency's success or failure will be determined by how much they have helped your business achieve these KPIs. Ensure that every campaign that the marketing agency runs has its own set of success metrics shaped by the campaign objectives, for example:

  • Brand awareness: To measure the effectiveness of brand awareness marketing campaigns, you would want to set a KPI of improvement in website traffic, overall Q score, social media following, impressions, brand-specific keyword search, referral traffic, etc.
  • Lead generation: To measure lead generation, the KPIs you can track involve overall site conversion rate, website form submission rate, MQL (marketing qualified leads), and SQL (sales qualified leads)
  • Engagement: Track how users interact with your website when measuring customer engagement. You can use tools like Hotjar to identify website scroll depth and user interaction. Running A/B text on content and creatives for digital advertising can help you understand what is resonating with your audience.

It is also essential to set realistic goals. For instance, if your current site conversion rate is 0.02%, you cannot expect it to reach 20% within a year. While goals and associated KPIs could be ambitious, they should remain grounded in reality.

Pro-tip: Once aligned on the campaign objectives and goals, don't shift the direction too quickly. It takes time for marketing campaigns to show results. Typically, it is recommended to wait for sometime before considering significant changes in the marketing campaign; of course, this may vary based on campaign objectives and your situation at the time. Still, allowing sufficient time for data collection and optimization will benefit both parties.

Step 5: Set up contact workflows and cadences

As the collaboration with your marketing agency progresses, a well-structured contact workflow and cadence management become extremely important. Put simply, you and the agency should align on a systematic approach to collaborate with each other.

Here are the different reasons why you need to establish a well-defined workflow and cadence;

  • It will ensure that the agency has the right information at the right time.
  • It will ensure timely delivery of campaigns and projects as approvals are streamlined.
  • It will help you keep track of how the agency is performing on a daily basis.
  • It will help both parties to work in sync towards shared goals.

There are 3 things you must mandatorily do to complete this step successfully:

  1. Share your brand guidelines that cover everything from your brand voice to your color palette. Also, provide access to your brand assets they can use while running the campaign. If you have a DAM system, then provide controlled access to the assets so that the entire asset management workflow is automated and streamlined.
  2. Create a content calendar with the agency that includes deliverables for the immediate future.
  3. Open one or more communication channels between your team and the agency team so that both parties can collaborate without friction.

How does a DAM system make it easy for businesses to work with external marketing agencies?

Throughout these steps, you may have noticed that you'll need to share brand collateral and digital assets with the external marketing agency on several occasions. This is where a Digital Asset Management (DAM) like ImageKit can help. It offers a wide range of benefits that make it considerably easier for you to collaborate with an agency. Here are some  benefits:

Centralized Asset Storage: ImageKit offers a centralized repository for storing all your digital assets, including images, videos, logos, and marketing collateral. This is the best way to ensure that both the marketing agency and you have easy access to all the latest versions of assets.

Efficient Search and Retrieval: Thanks to metadata tagging and advanced search functionalities, ImageKit enables quick and efficient retrieval of assets for the agency. This eliminates the need for time-consuming searches, thereby enhancing the agency's productivity.

Consistent Branding: ImageKit ensures brand consistency by storing approved brand assets and brand guidelines in a single location. This helps the marketing agency align its creative outputs with your brand's identity, reducing the risk of using outdated elements.

Version Control: ImageKit also offers a version control feature, allowing all stakeholders, including the external agency, to access the latest versions of assets. This eliminates confusion arising from multiple iterations and ensures that everyone is working with the most up-to-date materials.

Granular Access Controls: ImageKit allows you to control access to all your assets at a granular level. This ensures that the external agency has only view/download access only to the assets relevant to their project.

Marketing agency onboarding checklist

Onboarding an agency is an exciting step for any business, but it requires thoughtful planning and execution. Use the below checklist as a guide to smooth onboarding:

  1. Draft the contract with details about timelines, payments, and scope of work and get it signed by all the relevant stakeholders.
  2. In the discovery call, provide a full brand debrief or an overview of the entire product range
  3. Before the kickoff meeting, send documents about your company history, mission statement, sales decks, and previous case studies.
  4. In the kickoff meeting, clearly communicate your goals and expectations. Also, aligns on partnership objectives and deliverables.
  5. Communicate information about the existing tools in your MarTech stack along with their functionality and integration points.
  6. Ensure that there are one or more clear communication channels between your team and the marketing agency.
  7. Identify KPIs and share them with the marketing agency.
  8. Prepare a content calendar with the deliverables for at least the next 3 months.
  9. Provide access to brand guidelines and brand assets to the relevant stakeholders in the agency.
  10. Inform the stakeholders in the agency about the approval process, including who the approvers are and at which point their deliverables may be considered approved.


Building a long-term, working relationship with an external marketing agency is not a gargantuan task. All you need to do is follow the above steps to create a great onboarding experience, be transparent in your communication, and help each other achieve shared objectives.

However, the DAM system is an indispensable element often overlooked in this partnership. A powerful DAM, such as ImageKit, can offer more than a centralized hub for sharing your digital assets with the agency. It can help achieve brand consistency and enhance the overall workflow efficiency of both parties. With a good onboarding process and the integration of powerful tools like ImageKit, you can harness the complete potential of external marketing agencies.

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