Partnering with Your Next Agency
We all move fast and we’re all busy. In the marketing and advertising industry, we sometimes treat this as a good excuse to exhibit negative traits, especially in establishing the client-agency relationship. Agencies often spend time perfecting the pitch or polishing their trophies while clients select their agency at arm’s length with extensive and meticulous RFPs. There’s another way to do it.
Selecting an agency should be a positive experience focused on the mutual goal of understanding your customer, implicitly. Agencies and clients should each empower the other to learn and then grow together to solve exciting challenges.
If you’re ready for an agency partnership, here’s what to look for on your search:
Choose an agency who will understand your audience authentically
Do reasonable due diligence when selecting an agency including the services they offer, their client roster, and their references. The best agencies pride themselves on building their business through word of mouth. They will gladly furnish you with at least three references with whom they have achieved considerable successes.
Beyond those points of alignment, the most critical thing to look for is an agency who wants to listen and connect with you andyour audience. Many agencies deliver one-sided solutions instead of building authentic engagement with your customers. It’s the agency who strives to see the world through your eyes, and the eyes of your customers, which will always deliver more impactful work and sustainable solutions.
Make sure the agency team you’re getting (after the pitch) is a good fit for your business
Every agency worth a second look has at least a few impressive clients which resonate with your own brand and goals. However, simply because you admire some of an agency’s past work, does not mean that your assigned team will have those skills.
It’s critical to ensure the agency team assigned to your brand has expertise in your realm. Ask to meet the agency team who is going to execute the work before committing to a contract. Many times, the team is assembled by which resources are immediately available and billable, instead of the resources who are the best fit for your business. This experience can leave some clients confused when they start working with agency teams who have far different experience and skills from the team who sold in the work at the pitch.
Empower teams to have autonomy and psychological safety
Many of the most innovative and empathetic clients will empower their agency team to have autonomy in a specific challenge. Agencies love working with clients who implicitly trust them to do what they are hired to do. It is the agency’s responsibility to reward that trust with incredible insights and multi-faceted solutions to their client’s biggest challenges.
The healthiest partnerships occur when there is a level of psychological safety that enables purposeful ideation. In this context, the agency team wants to feel safe to recommend solutions that are outside of the expected norm and may even conflict with the client’s current prevailing perspective. The most productive relationship is dependent on acknowledging that the partnership is a safe place. All ideas are welcome if they are based on the common goal of understanding the customer.
Communicate with understanding
There is no perfect model for a successful agency-client relationship. However, there are clear opportunities for the client and agency who partner with open minds to improve the customer experience at scale.
When you have a partnership like that, your potential is limitless.