Is your agency relationship heading for the rocks?

As a general rule, nobody ever looks forward to the uncertainty and disruption of an agency search process.  The earlier we’re brought into to help identify and resolve client – agency issues, the more likelihood there is of helping marketers avoid their agency relationships floundering on the rocks.

So this week, I thought it would be worthwhile looking at some ideas to help steer your agency relationships away from the rocks and into safer waters. And I don’t mean just make them ‘bearable’ – I’m talking about making a transformative shift in the overall relationship.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? 

Well, not only does it sound good, but a positively transformed agency relationship doesn’t require a huge amount of effort to be readily achieved. Here are seven ideas to help avoid rocky waters:

Define goals

Does everyone on your team and at your agencies clearly understand your business goals and objectives?  If you’re not sure, the answer is (emphatically) ‘no’. The first step in any transformation process is to ensure your team and your agencies are completely clear on the objectives they should be striving for.

Encourage directness

Before you baulk at this one, ask yourself how direct you are with your agencies (really) – and how direct and honest are your agencies with you in return? If you or your agencies are sugar coating feedback or perhaps not providing feedback at all, it’s difficult for you, your team or your agency to adjust or make improvements. Direct communication helps eliminate misunderstanding and saves time.

Identify and eliminate roadblocks

This one maybe less difficult than it sounds because – with direct communication – you should be able to discuss issues before they become roadblocks.  And if you’re not sure if you already have roadblocks that are impeding business progress – start asking!

Make yourself available

How easy are you to get hold of and how much time do you make available to meet with your agencies? We’ve seen marketers limit face-to-face time with their agencies to key presentations, or scheduling brief face time just once every two weeks. If that sounds like you, an agency relationship can’t flourish – much less transform.

Get everyone talking about money

Everyone on your internal and agency teams should have an understanding of financial objectives pertaining to their area of specialty.  Whether it’s overall sales objectives, profit targets, or a more granular understanding of the production budgets their working on – everyone should be financially aware of their role in managing to financial expectations.

Define a process for new ideas

This is particularly important for marketers with multiple agencies on their rosters to enable all agencies to surface ideas so they get heard. Even if you have just one agency on your roster, make sure there’s a regular forum for ideas that are out of scope to maximize unrealized possibilities.  (Sounds corny perhaps – but it’s true).

Talk about business

How often do you sit down with your agencies to talk about your business – not just projects – your business as a whole. Talking about your business, competitors, industry related issues and opportunities, can in itself go a long way to being transformative because it helps teams look outwards at the big picture – not just inwards at projects, status and budgets.

When it comes to agency relationships, avoiding rocks doesn’t have to be difficult – or impossible – providing you put in a little effort to navigate around them and let positive transformation unfold.

Where are your agency relationships headed? And how can we help?


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

Photo: Pete Markham

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