More Lipstick On The Pig – Or Shall We Try And Fix It?

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When it comes to agency relationship management, disconnects between marketers and agencies can be extremely costly and potentially very damaging.  The danger is that rather than proactively attempting to resolve problems, there’s often a tendency to either hope for the best or put lipstick on the proverbial pig in the hope it’ll look better tomorrow.

Problem is, even small upsets can shake the very foundation of client / agency relationships – especially if they’re disconnects around:

  • Strategy and / or creative direction
  • Fees, costs and / or expenses
  • Deliverables
  • Resources required on the business
  • Roles and responsibilities between agencies

Unfortunately, these kinds of disconnects are all too common and the fixes run much deeper than a simple out-of-pocket expense for a corresponding make-good. Left unchecked, disconnects can lead to:

  • Serious ramifications on the health of your brand
  • Loss of sales or erosion in market share
  • Turnover of resources causing a loss of legacy knowledge and experience
  • Duplication of effort between multiple agencies
  • The deployment of valuable resources focused on the disconnect rather than on the well-being of your business
  • All the resulting costs associated with the disconnect in question
  • A potentially disruptive agency search process to replace the incumbent as a last resort to bridge the disconnect

That’s the bad news.

The good news is there are tools and solutions to help you bridge disconnects that won’t have you reaching for your corporate cheque-book or calling an agency review. Here are five that we often come across that we can help alleviate:

Disconnects with costs

Disconnects with costs begin either because the marketer believes they’re paying too much or the agency believes they’re not being paid enough. In either case, one solution is to conduct a cost benchmarking exercise to evaluate the costs against your current agency. The results will provide granularity and transparency around costs and resources and provide a firm, neutral ground for negotiation and resolution.

Disconnect with assigned responsibilities

With the evolution of digital requirements in the overall marketing mix, disconnects in responsibilities have become increasingly common. The first place to look is your agency contract to determine what requirements were set when the agency was first appointed. Chances are that a contract review can help define and alleviate disconnects in responsibilities, and provide a fresh framework for a better working relationship.

Disconnects with overall agency satisfaction

Before contemplating an agency review it’s essential to understand where dissatisfaction really lies and whether there are patterns or themes that make-up the disconnects you’re experiencing. The best way to understand what disconnects are causing roadblocks within your agency relationships is to have a third party conduct a stakeholder interview process to help provide an objective perspective on what’s really going on. A neutral stakeholder interview process can pinpoint disconnects and identify potential solutions that may even offset the need for an agency review.

Disconnects or turf-wars between roster agencies

For marketers with multiple agencies on their roster, it’s not uncommon for disconnects and / or turf-wars to crop-up between agencies. The challenge is often that it’s difficult to uncover where disconnects are happening – much less why. A 360º agency evaluation process that evaluates at both agency and client perspectives will pinpoint disconnects or roadblocks and point to solutions that can make for a more collaborative and productive agency roster.

Disconnects with resources on your business

If you’ve been struggling with too many, too junior, or not enough resources in a particular area on your business, chances are the disconnects are around the cost of those resources to run your business. A professionally run staffing and cost alignment process will help most marketers define what resources are required to run their business effectively while also defining the costs associated with that plan.

The best way to avoid disconnects in any client / agency relationship is to proactively manage the relationship before the disconnects are allowed to begin – using some or all of the tools described above.

If you haven’t got an agency relationship management plan or a mutually agreed client / agency playbook – perhaps it’s time to sit down, start talking and taking your agency relationship seriously.  That way you can avoid the lipstick and the potential pig’s breakfast.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed 

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