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Like all good relationships, the dynamic between brands and their agencies is in a constant state of ups and downs. Add to it the stress of meeting KPIs and budget demands and you have potential a recipe for trouble.
But with some strategic vision, brands can ensure they have the right partner by their side as they push their marketing programs forward. Here are my top tips for building strong agency relationships in 2019.
Thoroughly assess your internal needs
Conduct an in-depth assessment of your brand’s requirements, key strategies and team priorities to come up with a comprehensive scope of work. Interview key stakeholders, identify budget owners and their priorities, and address any potential misalignment early on. Additionally, evaluate for any gaps in talent and determine what can be filled by an agency partner.
Identify what competencies must be in-house
Assess which competencies you want to build or maintain in-house by calculating the cost/benefit of keeping that expertise on the payroll. What external skills are most needed to augment and complement internal talent and resources? Can some of the work be fully automated or enabled by technology?
Typically, specialized skills such as strategic planning, customer insight and media buying, are areas where agency expertise is often critical. Determining what resources should be sourced internally, or externally through agency partners, is a valuable analysis to conduct.
Determine how you will best manage agency resources
Most brands invest a fair amount of time and efforts on assembling the right talent and ensuring effective collaboration. This level of commitment requires visibility into these financial resources (including retainers, additional fees and various budget demands) as well as the ability to report out on activities (priorities, campaigns, projects, deliverables, etc.).
From campaign calendar to alignment on annual plans and ongoing reconciliations (monthly or even quarterly), having agreement and a plan for how the agency/agencies are most effectively managed is crucial to organizational success.
Figure out how your agency is keeping you accountable
Strong relationships are based on mutual accountability. Expectations are set, and performance is measured regularly. Often, the focus is on how well the agency is performing. Yet it takes two to tango. What does the agency need from the client to be successful? Are they getting the support and resources needed? An agency partner that is mature enough to have an answer to those questions will be able to function as a trusted advisor and contribute long-term value.
The upfront time invested in setting up a quality relationship between a brand and agency will always save time and money and be hugely beneficial in the end. It becomes the company roadmap to a shared definition of success with the agency partner(s).
A quality agency and client relationship can lead to actions designed to strengthen the quality of the work, improve the client/agency engagement, drive greater cost-efficiencies, and build new agency and client team skills and capabilities where those are needed. However, if the chosen agency strategy doesn’t address and deliver on core business challenges faced by the company, it will not receive the level of executive and staff attention and support it needs to be strong and flourish.
Bruno Gralpois is the co-founder and principal of Agency Mania Solutions. Recognized as a client/agency relationship guru and advisor, Bruno’s latest book Agency Mania 2nd Edition: Harnessing the Madness of Client/Agency Relations for High-Impact Results is due out in early 2019.
By Bruno Gralpois, ANA Faculty | February 1, 2019