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Look Who’s Talking: How Communication Can Solve 5 Key Digital Marketing Challenges

Look Who’s Talking: How Communication Can Solve 5 Key Digital Marketing Challenges

Kris Belau

illustration of people with multicolored speech bubbles above them

Executing a solid digital marketing strategy and the importance of maintaining open lines of communication

“Welcome. Your mission is to find the key to freedom. The only way out is to work together. The door is locked and the clock is ticking. Good luck.”

You’ve likely heard about escape rooms. Players are locked in a themed room with one goal: Open the door to freedom. Those who work together—deciphering puzzles, uncovering clues and completing activities—fare well. But the key to escaping the room in the allotted time is clear communication that begins the moment the room door closes.

Much like an escape room, a digital marketing campaign requires tight communication between team members from the very start to execute successfully. And everyone involved—from company leadership and internal teams to external agencies—needs to understand the endgame. 


Here are tips on how clear communication can solve five common challenges faced by marketers and their partners.

1. Wasted Customer Data

Did you know that your digital marketing agency collects a wealth of information about your customers you’ll likely never see? Nearly every ad platform can provide deep insight into customer demographics, psychographics and behavior.

Let’s say your agency is running a content campaign targeting senior-level IT professionals at enterprise companies on LinkedIn. A LinkedIn pixel on your landing page tracks and identifies top companies, job functions and industries that visit your website.

Imagine what your sales team could do if they knew that 10% of your website visits are coming from IBM.

Who should be talking? Product teams and your digital marketing agency.

Product teams should request a regular quarterly report from your digital marketing agency asking: What was learned about our customer? What messaging is resonating best, and with which audiences? Which user segments are we serving well, and which show opportunity?

This valuable data can be leveraged for holistic use across your organization.

2. Teams with Competing Incentives Undermine Results

Many mobile developers have a user acquisition team tasked with driving the most downloads at the lowest cost per download, and a retention team—in many cases an outside digital marketing agency—tasked with reducing churn and increasing revenue per user.

The acquisition team launches an incentivized download program driving hundreds of thousands of cheap downloads from users trying to get a download reward but who will likely never use the app again.

Guess what happens next. The acquisition team is celebrated for beating their numbers, and the retention team is lambasted for missing theirs.

Who should be talking? Sales teams and the digital marketing agency.

Regular communication between the digital marketing agency and your sales team—as well as agency visibility into lead quality—will ensure everyone is working toward the same business goals. Share lead data—quantitative factors from your CRM and qualitative feedback from sales—with the agency. And tag campaigns so sales and the agency can see lead quality at a granular level.

Ensuring alignment and transparency of incentives will reduce friction between teams, increase efficiency and drive more revenue.

3. Campaign Launch Snafus

Launch day is tomorrow and the creatives are running behind. They’re finally delivered at 3 p.m. and uploaded to the ad server, but the trafficker is hit with “click tag not found” or another error, and assets can’t be launched as the HTML5 doesn’t have the required tags.

You’re told that you need to go back to the creative agency to get the assets fixed. The creative agency can fix the banners, but wants a full list of specifications. This goes back and forth, and that whooshing sound you hear is the deadline flying past.

Who should be talking? The creative agency and digital marketing agency.

Before any project starts, initiate a kickoff meeting with all parties to fully brief both sides on scope and requirements, and to secure buy-in. Establish a plan to hold agencies accountable for missed deadlines. With tighter communication between agencies, you can avoid lengthy and expensive delays in launching a campaign.

4. Teams Working in Silos

If you’ve worked for a large enterprise with multiple product lines, you’re likely very aware of what the inside of a silo feels like. Teams compete for resources, recognition, a greater share of voice within the company, and often the attention of their customers. But communication can be sparse.

Consider a company with both B2B and B2C versions of a product. The B2C team generates 80% of revenue and has hired a large agency to manage its large budget. B2B is just getting off the ground—they engage a smaller, vertical-focused agency.

Both teams run search ads and have different accounts, but don’t coordinate keywords—leading to cannibalization and mixed messages. Over the next few months, both see increased CPCs and reduced conversion rates that could have been avoided.

Who should be talking? Everyone.

A strong media council within your organization—either a standalone team or a scrum of leads—can provide oversight and coordination between agencies and teams. The council would review media plans and resolve conflicts, set brand guidelines and meet monthly to ensure alignment.  

Forcing your agencies to talk to each other and establish strong standards may be difficult, but the results are well worth the effort.

5. Myopic Channel-Level Teams

Your very large external agency has teams of people with channel-level focus working on your behalf—from search, social, display and video to content, development and SEO. At any given time, you could be working with multiple teams.

Currently, your display team is tasked with driving 1 million brand impressions at a $2.50 CPM. Meanwhile, the search team needs to hit a CPA of $3 and 1,000 conversions. The display team finds some cheaper but unintentionally slightly less relevant inventory that can fulfill its target. Search sees its performance tank the following month and believes market forces or other external factors have changed, making adjustments that lead to ultimately worse-performing campaigns.

When agency teams are not aligned, myopic views can lead to suboptimal decisions.

Who should be talking? Channel-level teams at your external agency.

Make team alignment a must. Before you choose an agency, ask questions about how the teams supporting your account will coordinate. Ideally, teams are also cross-trained on the full stack to ensure robust support. Already working with an agency? Insist on a meeting with all main stakeholders for each campaign and require weekly updates. And make sure your account manager understands that alignment is a priority.

Your marketing channels are codependent. Communication is absolutely essential to ensure that your program is moving in the right direction.


Open lines of communication are critical to executing a solid digital marketing strategy, particularly when internal teams and outside agencies are involved. Make sure your product team, sales team, creative agency and marketing agency all communicate regularly and share information. You’ll be able to achieve your business goals via customer insights, a unified message and a cohesive team.

Illustration by Bill Murphy.

Kris Belau is vice president of digital marketing at global digital marketing agency Firewood. He has managed over $200 million in digital spend for B2B and B2C global organizations and helps clients obtain exceptional results through detailed planning, execution and optimization.