Having worked at Zazzle Media since I was fresh out of university, I’ve never known what it’s like to work in-house - the hustle and bustle of a varied agency life is all I know.
But as I’ve come to work closer and closer with our clients, I’ve always wondered what it might be like to be on the other side.
Aside from wanting to know the answers to a few obvious agency versus in-house questions - such as what it possibly must be like not having to juggle a multitude of relationships, industries and topics each day - something I’ve also always wanted to know is what do they really think of the agencies they employ?
Do they like us? Do they think we do a good job? Do they feel like we have a good relationship with one another?
One thing I’ve come to learn about the client/supplier relationship is that none of these all-important questions are frequently and openly asked, from either side. Sure, we scratch the surface of them and constantly try to do everything we can to make sure our clients can answer yes to all of the above, but I feel as though there’s so much more that could be done from both sides to strengthen these areas.
So by combining my own experiences with a little bit of trying to climb inside a marketing manager’s mind, I’ve come up with 10 vital points from an agency perspective that I feel clients can do to help maximise the relationships that they have with them – after all, I’m sure both sides would like them to be as strong as possible, right?
1. Select the right agency for you
When you’re appointing any agency, aside from their proposal being right for your business requirements, the next most important thing to consider is whether the chemistry between your team and the people who will be working with you is right – they need to ‘fit’ with your own company.
When you meet with a prospective agency, take time to think about your own company, considering questions such as: Are you relaxed or more formal? What are your company principles? What values are important to you? What is your company approach? How would you describe the company office/culture?
While it won’t always be an instant match, take time to think about those areas most important to you and how the prospective agency rate against these.
A great way to also assess if an agency is right for you is through informal meet and greets. While it’s important that they deliver in the boardroom, taking you both out of a formal situation is great to better get to know individual people, personalities and ultimately, assess if contacts from both sides will gel well on a day-to-day basis.
2. Make sure your brief is on-point
Once you’ve made your decision on which agency you’re going to appoint, take time during the onboarding process to make sure everything you want to get out of the partnership is documented, most notably any previous agreements, discussions or documents that have been had with, or been supplied to, the Business Development Manager that you feel the agency team should, or must, know about.
If they pass over an onboarding/set up/objectives form for you to complete, set aside enough time to complete it in depth and once done, run through it with a fine-tooth comb to ensure nothing is missed.
Doing this will ensure nothing gets lost in translation and your team on the ground are fully informed from the get-go.
3. Encourage & participate in immersion
Another crucial aspect that can help to strengthen the relationships you have with your agency lies around immersion.
Visit their offices regularly and get to know the agency, the people within it and importantly, their processes – just as much as it's important for them to immerse themselves in your business, it’s just as important for you to do it too.
Also encourage them to visit you frequently too; get them to your offices, show them the ins and outs of your company and importantly, run through in detail what’s important to you and what you want them to achieve.
4. Communication is key
We all know that good relationships are built on good communication, and the same goes for the professional relationship you have with your agency.
One of the first things your agency is likely to do when you come onboard is lay out a communications plan touching on how often you’ll meet, have reviews and have regular status calls.
Once they do this, make a conscious effort to stick to them – while we appreciate that you’re also busy people, creating and keeping consistency with them is key to making sure all parties are making progress. Remember that communication is a two-way street, and you will get back what you give - 100%.
5. Be honest & encourage honesty
This is something I always encourage our clients to do from the very start.
If you think your agency performs badly, or a specific campaign is not good enough, don’t make your agency guess – say it loud and clear! Everyone works in different ways and by being open about what works/doesn’t work for you, your agency can then cater their approach for you.
Give them honest feedback, objective reasons, explain why you are not satisfied and give them an opportunity to suggest potential solutions.
Try to be objective and determine if it is solely the agency’s fault; if hand on heart you feel it is, speak to the head of the account team immediately – it’s best to address the problem quickly rather than let it fester away. Trust me, your agency will want to hear your feedback and they will want to improve on it for you.
6. Help them help you
One of the best things about agencies is their knowledge and expertise as well as their access to information and tools, so make sure to make use of these – they’re not only here to help your company but importantly, they’re here to help you too.
What would you like to learn more about? What are your professional aspirations? What’s your progression path in the business, and where do you see yourself being in the next 10 years? Who do you need to impress, and through this, who do they need to impress?
Make sure they know about these, and they’ll be there to help you not only now but in the future too – no matter where your career takes you.
7. Listen & be open to new ideas
When you hire an agency, don’t forget why you hired them in the first place; whether it was for expertise, creativity or knowledge, make sure you leave that part of the job to them and be open to what they suggest.
The strategy they have put in place to achieve your business goals will have been done so with a lot of love and attention, so it’s important to respect this and put trust in them to deliver it.
8. Introduce & encourage cross-agency discussions, meetings & activities
Every agency works and does its best in order to provide the best services and get the best
results for your company.
But, if you work with several agencies, then it can sometimes be difficult determining who looks after what and how everyone feeds into one another; after all, you will have set them all individual KPIs and their sole focus will be on achieving these.
To help do this, take time to introduce and encourage cross agency meetings, activities and communications; not just once, but regularly.
9. Remember the golden rule: quality not quantity!
Taking on an agency can be an exciting time - suddenly you have your very own army of people to help you tackle everything your company and Marketing Director throws at you.
But as you start delegating every little job, don’t forget about the golden rule of quality and not quantity when it comes to what your agency do for you; yes, you might feel that asking them to help you with those five minor tasks won’t take much time, but chances are it will be taking focus away from the larger job in hand that they really should be getting on with.
Remember what you’ve hired them to do, what their KPIs are and each time you ask them to do something, ask yourself the question, “Is this going to hit our KPIs”? If you’re not sure, ask them that very question and they’ll certainly give you an honest answer. If it’s not in scope, then you can explore the option of them still helping you with that job but as an additional project, rather than it eating into your 'Business As Usual' time and budget.
With this, whenever you ask them to help with something, whether it be a campaign, report or a request, make sure you give them plenty of lead time – the end result will always be better when they have been given sufficient time to complete it, rather than it being rushed.
10. Give your agency time to prove itself
While you put a lot of effort into carefully selecting the right agency, it doesn’t mean that successful cooperation will come instantly.
Together, define a clear measure of success and during this period, it’s important to show trust – don’t and you could run the risk of turning away your agency’s focus.
Don’t forget that cooperation with an agency is like any other relationship – there will be great times and not so great times, but it’s about working together when the going gets tough, and not against one another, to ensure the overall objective is ultimately met.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media for the latest news.