70% of agency-client relationships fail within the first two years.
Most agencies don’t invest in building strong relationships with their clients. They focus on winning new business and delivering results, but they forget about the importance of nurturing the relationships they already have.
A 2018 study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that 50% of marketers have changed agencies in the past five years. And a 2019 study by the American Marketing Association (AMA) found that 40% of marketers are unhappy with their current agency.
Here are nine golden strategies to make the most out of an agency and build a strong collaborative culture:
Set Clear and Realistic Expectations
Set clear, measurable, and achievable expectations with your agency.
What do you want to achieve? What are your specific goals? Once you know your goals, communicate them clearly and effectively to your agency. Don’t disappear after the project starts. Stay involved and provide feedback as needed.
Keep these pointers in mind:
- Be specific when setting your goals. For example, instead of saying “I want to increase my brand awareness,” say “I want to increase my website traffic by 20% in the next six months.”
- Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. Don’t expect your agency to perform miracles.
- Be clear about your communication expectations. How often do you want to hear from your agency? How do you want to receive updates?
- Be responsive and provide feedback promptly. This will help the agency stay on track and deliver the results you want.
- It’s also important to be realistic about your budget and timeline.
It is important for agencies and clients to have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve together. If the two parties are not aligned on their goals, it is difficult to build a successful relationship.
Start Right, Finish Strong
Relationships and partnerships that are built on a solid foundation from the start are more likely to succeed and achieve their full potential. To do this, it is important to:
- Understand each other’s businesses and working practices
- Agree on mutual goals and metrics
- Define a clear roadmap
- Be mindful of assumptions and blind spots
- Recognize that success depends on the people involved, not just the organisations
In short, ensure that everyone is aligned on the same agenda, team, and vision.
Invest Your Time Wisely
Time is just as valuable as money, so it’s important to invest it wisely in your agency relationship. Be strategic in how you use your time and focus on the things that will have the biggest impact.
If you’ve hired an agency to help you with a marketing transformation, spend time figuring out how they can best fit into your existing ecosystem. If you’re simply replacing an existing agency, focus on building relationships, agreeing on goals, and learning from past mistakes.
No matter what the situation, develop an aligned roadmap for the future and regularly review and update it. Ask yourself:
- What’s happening now?
- What’s next?
- What lies in the future?
- What are we doing well?
- Where do we need to course correct?
By investing your time wisely, you can ensure that your agency relationship is successful and delivers the results you need.
Good communication is essential for any successful relationship, but it is especially important when working with an agency. Perspectives can differ even within organisations, and this issue is amplified when communicating with external parties.
Here’s what you can do:
- Communicate openly and honestly.
- Be an active listener.
- Provide regular constructive feedback.
- Establish a formal two-way appraisal process and dedicated wash-up sessions.
- Be open to learning and progression.
By establishing rules and systems for better communication, you can aid learning and progression. Listen, understand, and most importantly, learn.
Embrace Friction & Creativity
Challenge the idea, not the person (or the agency).
Friction can be a good thing, as it can spark new and innovative ideas. Here are some steps you can take when discussing a new idea with your agency:
- Challenge ideas, not people.
- Be specific in your feedback.
- Be open to new ideas.
- Create a culture of psychological safety.
Provoking creativity and passion often means stimulating and embracing challenging conversations and different perspectives. Everyone should feel comfortable pushing and playing with scenarios, and even playing devil’s advocate when necessary.
More Creative Briefs, More Creative Results
The best creative briefs are a mix of information, instructions, and inspiration. They help clients and agencies work together to deliver their best work.
More detailed and inspiring creative briefs lead to more creative results.
It sounds obvious, but quality briefing is essential to get the job done. If you want to get the most out of your marketing agency, take the time to create a well-defined brief.
- Keep it clear, concise, and easy to understand.
- Be specific about your goals and objectives.
- Share your target audience and competitive landscape.
- Provide the specific tone, style, and messaging you’re looking for.
- Be open to feedback and suggestions.
- Give creative freedom.
A creative brief that lacks creativity is a recipe for failure.
Treat Everyone with Integrity, Even When Things Go Wrong
Everyone makes mistakes. When things go wrong in an agency relationship, it’s important to reflect openly about why and to treat everyone involved with respect. No amount of internal or external pressure justifies rudeness or disrespectful behaviour.
When things go wrong, take a step back and reflect on what happened.
- Why did it happen? What could have been done differently?
- Be honest and open with everyone involved.
- Focus on finding solutions, not blaming people.
- Be respectful of everyone’s time and effort.
It’s unrealistic to expect an agency to produce the best results if they’re only given half the time they need to complete the work.
Focus on the What and Why, Not the How
Process is important in any working relationship, but it's especially important with your agency. Focus on the “what” and the “why” of your goals, not the “how.” This doesn't mean you shouldn’t review and reflect on your processes, but they should be designed to facilitate great work, not be seen as great work in and of themselves.
Follow these steps to ensure a smooth communication flow:
- Establish regular communication channels.
- Check in regularly to review progress.
- Be flexible and willing to make changes as needed.
- Focus on the results, not the process.
Remember, your agency is your partner in success. By empowering them to do their best work, you can achieve your goals and objectives more efficiently.
Give Your Agency the Tools and Support They Need to Succeed
The saying “you get out what you put in” applies to people, not just agencies. Think about how well you are facilitating success for your agency's teams and individuals. Give them the data, results, access, and tools they need to succeed.
To get the most out of a marketing agency relationship, businesses and brands also need to be prepared for the people involved in that relationship to change.
- Share access to all relevant data and insights.
- Be responsive to their requests for feedback.
- Give them the time and space to be creative and strategic.
- Invest in training and development opportunities.
- Schedule regular check-ins to answer their questions.
- Be patient and understanding as they learn the ropes.
You can’t expect a new account manager to download the knowledge, common language, and insight of their predecessor. Great clients know this and are willing to challenge their own assumptions.
Celebrate Wins, Build Trust
Build trust and collaboration by celebrating wins and reflecting on challenges together. The goal should be to create one team, one agenda, and a real sense of “we”. To achieve this, you need to celebrate the wins, as well as reflect on the challenges and learnings. Shining a light on successes and saying thank you matters.
Chances are, every client and agency is doing some of these things well. So here's the question:
What would a conversation about the above points look like between you, your teams, and your agency? What are you doing well, and where could you improve? What tangible impact could that have?
- Take the time to publicly and privately recognize your agency team members for their hard work.
- Hold regular team meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and lessons learned.
- Create a culture of open communication and collaboration, where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and feedback.
- Be willing to admit mistakes and learn from them.
- Show your agency team that you value their contributions.
Cultivate a culture of creativity, commerciality, curiosity and collaboration in your agency relationship. When these four “Cs” collide, magic happens.
To build stronger, more productive client relationships, follow the tips and strategies in this guide. Set the stage for a positive and productive relationship from the start. Also, be proactive and communicate well to avoid misunderstandings and conflict. In the end, the goal is to build a happy and healthy working relationship on both sides.
Are you on a quest to partner with a new performance marketing agency? Let’s talk.
At 360 OM, we specialise in helping businesses take their marketing efforts to the next level. Our team stays on top of industry trends, makes data-informed decisions to maximise your ROI, and provides full transparency through comprehensive reports.