Today’s world of constant change has led some companies to quickly swap agencies when they feel a problem has occurred. When the relationship becomes one-sided and collaboration starts to wane, there could be a festering issue with the agency and its performance.
Financial pressures, innovative technology, the need for speed, and ever-shortening consumer attention spans will continue to change the way agencies and brands work together. The relationship between agencies and the companies they work for has shifted dramatically for several reasons, so let’s explore how both sides can stay on the common ground and best support one another.
An Evolving Relationship
More and more agencies now claim to “do it all,” which means an increasing number are competing for your contract. Combine that reality with bottom-line pressures to both decrease cost and increase performance, and you end up with procurement playing a more significant role in both new assignment contracts and renewals.
Agency reviews are seeing more and more project work rather than agency-of-record assignments. And even in agency-of-record assignments, companies will bring in challenger agencies. In some cases, challenger agencies do entice better results, and clients should always evaluate their agencies and their work. But building a trust-based relationship will often yield better results in the long-term.
Agencies know they need to be nimble to stay relevant. Their plans need to work for both omnichannel and individual segments because your company’s marketing and advertising efforts need to translate on all platforms and in real time. All of this has an impact on an agency’s ability to get the work done. The ones who can keep up survive; the others don’t.
That said, as with any relationship in life, your interactions cannot be one-sided or working together will be challenging and short-lived. Here are five ideas to inspire better partnerships with agencies and avoid a dreaded divorce:
- Instill a sense of trust. You embarked on a relationship with the agency for a reason, but maybe the honeymoon is over. I’ll tell you from experience: If an agency constantly feels like it’s being second-guessed, then confidence will decline and trust will begin to erode. Creative types are a sensitive lot, so it’s valuable to relay how much you trust your agency to get the job done. And actually trust them! You hired them for a reason, after all.
Agencies want to make a real impact, not simply fill an order. You can instill trust in them by giving them the problem and some direction — let the agency own the pressure of performing well and figuring out the solutions.
- Be transparent about your challenges. You can help your agencies tremendously by giving them the tools and information they need to resolve your business challenges. Be transparent about how you make your profit, what issues you run into during sales, and how people view your company. By doing this, you may get solutions that surprise you and contribute to the business in ways you didn’t expect. Let them bring their creativity to the table.
- Be accessible. Agencies realize and respect that an executive’s time is at a premium and that you need to prioritize your focus. You can return that respect by making time to share direct and consistent feedback. While occasional interaction is better than none, providing regular input will go a long way. Demand the same from them. As with any relationship, it’s a two-way street.
- Build a relationship beyond business. Having a relationshipduring “typical” business settings is a given, but provide content and context outside of the normal day-to-day interactions, too. Be open to having a quick check-in on the drive home, or feel free to text an answer to a quick question they have asked. Encourage your points of contact to act in kind. Sharing ideas shouldn’t be relegated to normal business routines; ideas, thoughts, and issues don’t happen only in meetings and conference calls, as we all know.
- Provide clear expectations. As results have become more granular and readily available, it’s important for you to be straightforward about which performance metrics are meaningful for both the agency and the client team. This helps create better alignment on business performances, which will, in turn, lead to better work.
Intangibles matter. Just as you want to inspire your internal teams to do great work, you should feel the same way about your agency partners. The companies that get the best work from agencies are the ones that engage with them like a true business partner. Agencies, meanwhile, feel incredible pressure to create compelling content because the competition is so fierce. Use that knowledge to your advantage: An agency’s unwillingness to wholeheartedly collaborate with you to achieve mutual goals is plenty of reason to start considering other creative options.
Hold your agency accountable. You’ll both be better off as a result.
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