Why it’s never a good idea to squeeze your agency too hard. (Particularly now).

Are you a marketer that wants to squeeze more from your agency? Do you feel like they should be doing more? Delivering better results? Turning things around faster?

All sound like good ideas, right?

What’s surprising in our experience is that while most marketers aspire to have their agencies deliver more, better and faster, their approach almost always ends up having the opposite effect. Particularly now.

Hit hard by the great resignation, agencies are already scrambling to retain employees and fill gaps left by those who’ve already left. And if you’re already feeling the effects as a client, stepping up the pressure and asking for more will likely only make a bad situation worse.

“Depending how hard agencies have already been squeezed, marketers could face rate hikes of up to 20%

Worse still, this is only the beginning. We’re already seeing agency rates start to accelerate and marketers hoping to squeeze more from already pressurized budgets are going to be challenged with agency rate hikes of up to 20% – depending on how hard their agencies have already been squeezed.

So what’s the solution?

Stop squeezing. Start juicing.

As counter intuitive as it may seem, doing exactly the opposite can help increase productivity, effectiveness and yes, profitability. Marketers need to be investing in their agencies – not just with money, but with enthusiasm, encouragement and an investment of time. And by investing in their clients with equal doses of enthusiasm, support, commitment and time, agencies will find themselves indispensable advisors in their client’s businesses.

Here are some juice driving ideas:

Pay for performance

Mention pay for performance, PBR (payment by results) or even ‘bonus’ and many glaze over because they perceive the metrics by which pay for performance terms can be measured to be too difficult to agree, measure or implement. If that’s the case the issue isn’t cost – it’s an investment in time that’s needed to define and agree those metrics and come up with ways to measure them. The goal is to incentivize agencies to deliver and for clients to feel good about paying for that effort so that it’s a win – win for both agencies and clients.

Take the handcuffs off

If you’ve hired your agency for their creativity or you’re an agency that touts its creative chops – then here’s an opportunity to unleash it. The catch is the corporate handcuffs have to come off. No, I mean really off – not only allowing and encouraging agencies to think laterally, push boundaries and tap into areas that have never been previously (or properly) tapped, but also encouraging marketing to evaluate and nurture ideas with greater flexibility.

Leverage others

By removing the boundaries that otherwise create turf wars between competitive agencies or specialized agencies, can spark fresh approaches and ideas that have previously not been explored. Rather than protecting agency turf, marketers – and agencies themselves – should create and welcome a mechanism for alternate idea generation. Why should agencies welcome it? If they’re the right agency for their client they should have confidence in their role in their client’s ecosystem and confident in sharing idea generation.

Pay and play fair

The worst solution of all is not paying or playing fairly. All marketers need to pay fair market value for work provided and not have an expectation of ‘free services’. If there are questions around costs or resources, then they need to be openly discussed and resolved – not used as bargaining chips eke out lower costs or greater profit.

Squeezing your agencies for better productivity or cheaper costs won’t get the juices flowing – it’ll drain already depleted resources and make a bad situation considerably worse.

Juicing agency teams or marketing counterparts requires dialogue, innovation and confidence in your teams to be able to deliver the results you want – without breaking the bank.


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 / follow me @StephanArgent

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