How hard can you squeeze your agency before the worst happens?

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? So if like most marketers you’d find these kinds of attributes desirable from your agency(s), then read on.

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. And it’s not only the client that’s to blame – agency management plays a role in all this too – effectively diminishing their own worth and value.

Whether requested by clients, or mandated by agencies – everyone wants to do more with less and it goes a bit like this:

Either, the client looks at the budget and / or bills and thinks ‘we’re paying too much – let’s cut something – better yet, let’s have the agency cut something…’ Or, the agency does some form of internal analysis and thinks ‘this is costing too much – let’s lean things out – better yet, have the client pay more’. A tug-of-war begins and everyone gets short-changed on their original objectives.

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’. Similarly, agencies need to staff their client’s businesses with appropriate seniority and total resources. 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 them. In the same way, squeezing your clients to realize greater profit will only end up backfiring in the long run.

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

Photo: Terri Bateman
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