When hiring a marketing agency, there are many things to look for. However, one of the most vital things to consider is whether your organizational values align. In this piece, I will share why aligned organizational values are essential to an agency/business relationship and how they can benefit your business.
Value Alignment Is Core to All Successful Relationships
In work, as in life, value alignment is an important element of a successful relationship.
As an individual, your values help define what you believe to be true and what is most important to you in life. Your values also define your definition of good and bad and help shape what you stand for. Therefore, value alignment in a relationship means sharing beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and norms with another person.
An example of this could be attitudes and beliefs around marriage, the importance of family, and particular relationship roles. If you are a person who doesn’t believe in marriage and has no desire to have a family, you will likely not be a good fit for a person who deeply desires marriage and longs to be a parent. Even if these two people have plenty of other similarities on the surface, the lack of shared values on important topics could create misalignment and lead to friction and conflict.
There are no inherently right or wrong values; however, it makes life easier to be aligned with someone you are in a relationship with.
Interpersonal relationships within organizations need to “fit” as well. Companies often talk about the importance of hiring employees that are a good cultural fit – and, at its core, cultural fit means an alignment between values, attitudes, and behaviors. Both personal and professional relationships can benefit from aligned values.
One of the relationships that shared values can heavily impact is between an agency and business, which can be good or bad.
How Aligned Values Can Lead to Success
Just as it’s crucial to have the right employees in-house, working with agency partners whose organizational values align with your own company can make the client/agency relationship more seamless and fruitful. This shows up as:
- Better communication
- Ease and synergy in day-to-day work
- Aligned expectations and boundaries
- A shared respect for people’s time and approach
- Clearer alignment on what success looks like
How Misalignment Can Lead to Issues
Just as aligned values can create synergy, working with an agency where there are conflicting values can create tension and stress.
For example, if your organization values collaboration, it will oppose an organization that values individual achievement. Success will be hindered by one side prioritizing individual success while the other side is trying to win as a team.
And if one company values speed while the other values research and data-backed recommendations, it can create friction, as each side may feel like their desired process is not being respected, muddying what success looks like.
Finally, if one company prioritizes the value of their people, while the other cares only about business results, this can put a strain on the relationship, creating a misalignment of expectations and jeopardizing boundaries.
How to Find an Agency That Shares Your Values
When it comes to choosing the right digital agency, one of my favorite quotes from the article “What to Expect From Social Media Management” says:
“One of the key components of any successful relationship is establishing a good fit between your agency and your internal team. To better execute a strategy, push boundaries when incorporating new ideas, and better move the needle on the entire marketing program if everyone is plugged into the vision of your organization.”
With that said, it isn’t always an easy task. Below are three steps to follow to help you find an agency with aligned organizational values.
1. Get Clear on Your Organizational Values
To ensure that values align with potential agencies, it is important to be clear on your internal organizational values first.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines organizational values as “what is important to you as an individual and to your organization. In other words, values are what you stand for. They reflect who you are, which in turn affects what you do and how you do it.”
Values provide a map for where your organization wants to go and how to get there while acting as a compass to know if you are veering off track. For example, if your company’s primary value is profit, your employees will be motivated and encouraged to take action and make decisions aligned with driving revenue and decreasing costs. Whereas, if your primary value is growth, you may be more willing to focus less on profit in the short-term in exchange for actions that will fuel expansion for long-term growth.
What Is It That Your Company Values Most?
Is it profit or making a difference? Is it consistency or innovation? Is it collaboration or individual achievement? Is it speed, or is it perfection? Answering these questions can help you identify your organizational values.
If this is still not clear for your company, it can be an essential exercise to do, and there are plenty of articles on how to define your organization’s values if you need help with this step.
2. Research Your Potential Agency to Determine Their Values
Once your internal organizational values are defined, it’s time to identify the values of potential agency partners to ensure alignment.
Most companies will have their corporate values listed on their website. It is typically found under Company, About Us, Our Philosophy, or even as explicitly listed as Our Values. Sometimes it’s a list. Other times, it may be found in the form of a mission or value statement. Either way, the goal is to find some key phrases or statements that provide insight into their goals, attitudes, and values.
Example of Organizational Values: Portent
At Portent, we’ve defined our value set around what we believe makes the best agency partners. We make it easy to find our values on our website. They are represented by the acronym SHIFTS, which stands for:
- Superior Communication
- High EQ
- Intellectual Curiosity
- Fearless Accountability
- Teach the Shit Out of Everything
At Portent, we do our best to embody these values every day through our internal processes and the work we produce for our clients. For example, these stated values mean that we are doing the following:
- Communicating frequently and in a way that makes complex topics simple for clients to understand.
- We are genuinely curious about the industry we work in. We deepen our knowledge to ensure clients are getting the latest approach to solving problems.
- We love to collaborate and share our knowledge, teaching others the “why” and “how” of our work.
3. Find Overlapping and Complementary Values
An agency doesn’t need to have the same values as your organization to be a great fit – companies with complementary values can also be beneficial. For example, if your company is eager to learn and grow, find an agency that loves to teach (like Portent!). In this instance, the value alignment doesn’t come from having identical values (one is interested to learn while one is equipped to teach) but from the shared beliefs and attitudes around the value of sharing that knowledge.
Suppose your company values speed and innovation and wants to test outside the box ideas quickly to fail forward. In that case, an intellectually curious agency that is eager to try the newest digital marketing approaches could be a great fit.
Sharing values with your agency partners is ideal for ensuring a great fit and synergy between your teams.
To find an agency that is a great fit, value-wise, you must first get clear on your organizational values. Then, look for agency partners that share similar attitudes, beliefs and values. Although having the same values can help make an ideal fit — i.e., both companies valuing speed over perfection — companies with complementary values can also benefit.
Now that you know what to look for in an agency, it’s time to get out there and find the right digital marketing agency that will help you reach your goals with the least amount of friction and frustration!