Agency Review

5 Tips to Keep A Successful Agency Relationship That Produces Results

Client-agency success is centered around the importance of building a healthy relationship. The key to lasting success lies in working toward joint goals and mutual wins that drive business forward.

It takes two to build an enduring and successful client-agency relationship, meaning the process requires effort from both the client and agency. There are countless ways in which both marketers and agencies can work together to build lasting partnerships.

Here are five tips to ensure your client-agency relationship is successful and produces results:

1. Be Selective of Who You Work With

Just as a brand wants to work with a best-fit agency, agencies should be selective with the clients they choose to work with. Both parties should look at one another and make sure they are a cultural fit as well as an ethical fit. Alignment of work motives, goals, and the most efficient ways to accomplish those goals are essential in a healthy partnership.

When searching for a qualitative and quantitative fitting agency, brands are encouraged to hire an agency search consultant to guide them through a comprehensive and thorough selection process. Adding this type of experience and expertise saves time, adds structure to the process, and significantly improves the chances of achieving successful results through a positive relationship with your agency of choice.

As an agency, it’s crucial to have a robust business development process that produces a full pipeline and allows you to be selective of the type of work you take on. Established agencies should also take the time to reflect back on negative client experiences to identify and common trends. This will help you identify issues internally and also highlight client attributes that may be high-risk and should be avoided.

2. Ensure Your CMO Oversees Any Agency Reviews

The average tenure for many client-agency relationships ranges anywhere from four to six years with some only at two to three years.  At a certain point in time, problems typically begin to arise in areas such as poor results, flat creative, relationship problems, or a change in leadership.

So, how do some client-agency relationships endure for two, three or even 10 times the industry average? It’s because both the client and agency consider themselves as friends all contributing to one joint goal: a successful business partnership.

The CMO serves as the keystone of this friendship and is the lead communication setting the tone for transparency between a client and their agency.  CMOs lead the charge on establishing a certain level of team chemistry, starting by involving themselves in the entire process of decision making rather than just surfacing at the final stage.

In order for a client and agency to start and remain aligned, the CMO must ensure that the agency and client have similar personalities, work ethics, and integrities in order to build a strong foundation and make sure both parties are compatible.

3. An Agreed-Upon Compensation Plan

Money is a sensitive subject that can easily cause problems in a client-agency relationship. Successful partnerships depend partly on appropriate compensation, which is easier said than done due to the fact that today’s compensation arrangements have become even more complex and diverse. However, the various options must be sorted through so that both sides feel comfortable with the plan in place.

Clearly defined marketer goals should align with their agency’s ability to provide services and deliverables, and therefore help create a mutually agreed upon compensation plan. Defining the scope of work and compensation must also be matched with appropriate staffing, systems, and resources which are subject to change throughout the year. When creating a compensation plan, there are 6 main questions to consider to ensure the plan is beneficial for everyone involved:

  • Are the clear objectives established up front?
  • Is the compensation plan equitable?
  • Is it simple?
  • Does the compensation plan match the resources?
  • Are there incentives?
  • Can it endure over time?

4. Be Completely Transparent With One Another

Transparency issues are one of the leading reasons for the rise of in-house agencies today. According to sources, advertisers with in-house agencies have increased to 64% from 42% a decade ago.

Trust must be built on both ends of the spectrum. Brands must notify agencies of any changes with ample time for them to react and be successful in adjusting. Brands have a responsibility to follow best practices that will protect both them and the agency. It’s also crucial that brands clearly state expectations, and support their agency’s efforts in any way possible.

Agencies must be accountable for any setbacks or failures, and rather than attempting to hide them from the brand, add clarity to any issues they are facing and work with the brand to effectively solve these problems. The best way to build trust is to provide regular updates, communicate frequently about performance.

5. Be Agile

In such a fast-paced industry, agility is not only important but essential to the success of your business. Many brands struggle with slow internal processes and decision-making. As the brand, you might move things a bit slower, but it’s important to keep up with your agency so that as a team you can be as successful as possible.

Both clients and agencies work together to make an agile system work. Some teams work closely with agency partners in sprints to benefit from greater agility. Co-location is also becoming more common, which increases face-to-face interaction and therefore collaboration.

Although there are constant pressures and continuous changes in the realm of the marketing world today, all successful client-agency relationships not only require both sides being present and accounted for but also to treat each other with mutual respect with everyone in alignment for the greater good of the brand.

Tags: Client-Agency Relationships

Lisa Colantuono

Lisa Colantuono is the President of AAR Partners. An agency search consultant for over two decades, Lisa is also an avid writer. Lisa has contributed many articles in top industry trades such as Forbes, Huffington Post, Advertising Age, Adweek and HubSpot Blogs’ Agency Post. Recently, Lisa entered the world of publishing with her book, @AARLisa: New Biz in 140 characters (or Less), written for the on-the-go new business exec that needs cut-to-the-chase insights to nail new business wins again and again. Lisa is also part of the industry speaking circuit, presenting at national conferences including 4A’s Transformation Conference, AAF Admerica National Conference, BOLO, HOW Design Live, Mirren, and AdAge Small Agency Conference.