It’s not uncommon for marketers to have had agency relationships that have endured for decades. Whether that’s a result of global alignment, agency roster alignment or outstanding work in particular categories, is open to individual assessment.
But no matter how long you’ve enjoyed a long-standing agency relationship, it needs to be proactively maintained, fine tuned – perhaps even overhauled – if it’s going to continue to serve your needs and maximize value for your organization.
As an example, real estate agents are very good at pointing out areas in your home that need attention before you put your property on the market. While you think your home is in pretty good shape (because you’ve lived there for years and of course it is…), a fresh set of eyes quickly points out areas that could use a coat of paint, wiring that may need bringing up to code, or that hidden corner that will never pass inspection under the scrutiny of new buyers.
And so it is with long-standing agency relationships. Marketers need to regularly assess their needs in the context of the agency’s performance and capabilities, embrace areas of success and discover (and fix) areas that need improvement.
Here are five aspects of agency relationship management that can be easily reviewed, managed and most importantly – fixed – before they start to affect your relationship, your business and ultimately your results:
Agency Health Check
An agency health check is great way to take a holistic look at how your agency is performing and get a clear picture of what’s really working and what’s not. Our Agency Health Check system includes a stakeholder interview process with everyone who interacts with the agency. The results are then evaluated across ten key metrics that range from development to delivery and collaboration to operations.
Agency Roster Streamlining
It can be very easy to point fingers at your agencies and say ‘they’re stepping on each other’s corporate toes...’ or ‘they’re not collaborating properly…‘ but what if your requirements or scope of work has changed significantly since you hired them (it probably has…), what if their capabilities have evolved and / or they’ve expanded their service offerings, or what if there’s been significant shift your respective resources? It may be you have agencies on your roster that either aren’t compatible or are now tripping over each other and you could usefully re-evaluate and streamline the number of agencies on your roster.
We’ve written before about how many marketers come to us concerned about agency costs, but don’t always have a clear understanding of market rates today. A cost benchmarking exercise helps you understand market rates in relation to your incumbent agency’s costs and takes the guesswork (and emotion) out of agency cost management.
When was the last time you reviewed your agency contract? If you’ve got a long-standing relationship with your incumbent agency perhaps the better question might be – when did you last read your agency contract? (In some cases – do you even know where it is?!) If you’ve not looked at in a while, pull it out and see if it addresses your needs today. If it doesn’t, it’s an opportunity to revisit both the contract and the role your agency is playing in your business.
Most marketers have some sort of evaluation process in place that they believe helps them understand how their agency is performing. But more often than not these evaluations are either informal, unstructured, conducted in great haste as part of an administrative ‘should do’ or so linear that they don’t provide a proper 360º view of what’s going on. If you’ve not done a 360º review in recent years – call your friendly agency search consultant.
If you’ve enjoyed a long-standing agency relationship for more than say, seven years, think about how your requirements have evolved over that time. What team changes have transpired – both on your side and at the agency? How has your scope of work expanded (or contracted)? How much of your media is now being bought programmatically?
Seven years on or more… how’s the itch? 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: Nawal Al-Mashouq