Can you remember the last time you asked your team, “How can we get the most out of our relationship with [insert agency’s name here]?”
After all, your decision to team up with an agency is an investment — an investment in people. It shouldn’t depreciate over time.
I recently posed that same question to our experienced Client Management team. Here's some of the feedback I pulled together.
Align teams to the bigger picture
Take time to get to know a little about the agency people on your team — not just the senior members. Create a true team dynamic by involving (when feasible) all the individuals that contribute to your business.
Nothing motivates people more than to feel they are part of something bigger than the individual tasks they manage.
Share your pain points
Share the pain points your internal team is experiencing and let your account director propose some help. Maybe you’re completely out of budget and need to get creative on how to do more with less. Or maybe your supervisor has some unrealistic demand that you don’t have a good solution for.
Empower your agency to arm you with the knowledge to fight the good fight or figure out how to meet demands.
Get a second opinion
We love when clients ask "What do you think?" or "How would you do it?" It sounds simple but some clients can get stuck in a rut of doing something a certain way because that’s how it’s always been done.
It’s important to think more strategically and long-term about campaigns and their results. Accomplish this by setting aside some time upfront to outline specific program goals. This will help to establish a test design, see it through, review results, and optimize.
Always provide context
As Tom Cruise once said to Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire, 'Help me, help you.' As your partner, an agency cannot fully help you if it doesn’t know the why behind your request for support. It needs to be aware of what’s happening within your walls.
The more context, the better. It allows us to not only deliver on your request, but possibly recommend other solutions to solve your problem. This context is critical to making the agency you choose a productive and valuable extension of your team.
Collaborate from start to finish
It’s important for the agency and client to define the requirements for a deliverable as the work is starting. Kickoff meetings are often valuable to discuss the project objectives, align on the proposed approach or solution, and plan for the finer details like budget, timing, deliverable formats, etc.
The most successful client relationships we have are where the teams work directly with one other and collaborate on projects from start to finish.
Ask for the metrics you want — and need
Don’t assume (no matter how long the relationship has been in place) that your agency is thinking 12 steps ahead. Sometimes a campaign or tactic may just be viewed as a campaign or tactic — and that’s OK.
If you want to ensure you’ll get the metrics and insights you need about performance, ask! If an agency isn’t fully aware of your expectations, a click or view or conversion may be all they’re thinking of and not necessarily tying it to a larger business goal.
Streamline your communication touchpoints
Let your agency know who their main point of contact is and who will be the final approver on work deliverables. Having multiple opinions and points of contact can cause confusion for an agency and require hours of rework.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of attending weekly (or biweekly) status meetings with your agency. Schedules can be demanding, but a brief check-in helps keep questions answered and items reviewed in a timely manner. It may also spark an idea or discussion that would not have normally been brought up.
First, get on the same page internally
From assignments to sign-offs, agencies are often asked to move forward on things without the client team in full agreement. Take the time necessary to get everyone on your team on the same page internally. This due diligence will prevent the frustrating process of going through multiple rounds of feedback and any lost time that comes with it.
Be transparent for long-term success
Even though the relationship may only overlap certain areas, giving an agency visibility across your department will allow them to think more holistically. Knowing your goals aids them in bringing solutions that advance the impact of work with other groups and vendors. Remember, we want to see your business succeed, not just the projects that we are delivering.
Remember: partnerships take two to tango
According to Forrester, most agencies will shoulder the blame for a client/agency relationship that just never lives up to its potential. When in reality, clients have the power to foster an “environment where an agency can easily or advantageously organize around and deliver customer-centric strategies.”
Do more of what, exactly? Consider:
- Addressing internal channel silos and then breaking them down
- Prioritizing a lasting partnership and vetting an agency’s long-term staff quality
- Including the agency on strategic conversations to ensure they know your overall and long-term business goals
Lastly, per Forrester, a common mistake many clients make is asking for an agency’s strategic vision but then treating them like a product vendor. That’s a big mistake, because the agency you choose to work with is, in essence, an extension of your marketing team.
Lacy Schuette is Vice President of Sales, Partnerships and Consulting for Customer Engagement at RRD. And have you heard the news? RRD was named a "Strong Performer" in the Forrester Wave™: Customer Database And Engagement Agencies, Q1 2021. According to the report, our advanced analytics and reporting capabilities continue to shine bright. See our press release to learn more.