The CMO’s Responsibility For Managing Agency Partnerships

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Data-Driven Thinking is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Bruno Gralpois, co-founder and principal at Agency Mania Solutions.

Self-reflection is an important part of personal development. Only by asking ourselves the tough questions and reflecting on what we’ve done and learned do can we improve.

This is equally true for brand advertisers. For those who work on the client side, regularly assessing their roles in the client and agency relationship is the key to being more effective clients and better partners to their agencies.

Agencies have been doing a lot of soul-searching over the last few years, and they have a responsibility to be collaborative and set goals and benchmarks with their clients. At the same time, it is beneficial for CMOs to also assess their role so they can also manage their agency partnerships effectively and responsibly.

Are you providing clear guidance to our agency partners?

Advertisers have the important responsibility to guide agency partners at the beginning of the year, during the scope process and throughout the year as they brief agencies on specific assignments. Clear guidance is critical to avoid poor work quality and performance, not to mention significant waste if agency resources are not effectively leveraged. CMOs should consider whether their guidance is clear and complete enough to do the work. If they don’t get a pulse on how effective they are at guiding their agencies, they might be undermining their efforts and budgets.

Are you equipping agency partners with the right resources to be successful?

Advertisers also have the responsibility of reviewing and ultimately approving resource plans submitted by their agencies. Agencies estimate the type and amount of resources required to deliver against their client goals or the costs associated with their deliverables. No matter the compensation agreement – retainer or output-based – the client will end up having to approve it.

If agencies are providing resources in excess of what’s needed, they are leaving money on the table. If they are providing too few resources, agencies may simply be setting themselves up for failure. Finding the right balance of resources, deemed reasonable, is an art form that clients must master.

Are you consistently providing constructive feedback?

Advertisers play an important role in managing expectations and steering the agency in the right direction. Whether the agency is meeting, exceeding or missing expectations, providing it with timely feedback allows it to focus on what is most important and to improve its delivery.

In any relationship there are missteps, mistakes or missed expectations. Those must be communicated for immediate course-correction. There is feedback, and then there is constructive feedback. The latter takes far more consideration and effort, but it also pays greater dividends in the long run.

Are you streamlining and automating common partnership processes, making it easier for agencies and client teams to collaborate?

Advertisers ask agencies to adopt and conform to their requirements and processes. They must submit data on a regular basis, including weekly, monthly or quarterly metrics, financial, staffing, campaign-specific and other important operational reports. This data is critical for making timely and informed decisions, so clients have an important role in making this process as clear, transparent and streamlined as possible for their agency partners. When they do, collaboration improves, and these activities run more smoothly and efficiently.

Are you measuring performance and steering the relationships based on meaningful KPIs?

Advertisers wear many hats and move at light speed to execute and meet aggressive goals. For agencies to best support them, they need absolute clarity on what the client values most. Agencies must know how performance is measured and how they contribute to it, so they can act decisively on the client’s behalf. CMOs must ensure they’re using the right KPIs to do so. Without the right KPIs in place, or without a way to tie this to the agency’s performance and potentially reward them for it, advertisers will fall short of getting complete alignment and momentum.

Are you developing a quality relationship with agencies that form productive and lasting business partnerships?

Supplier relationships are not partnerships, but they can be. It requires a true commitment to embracing partnership principles that govern the relationship and the work itself. Self-reflection is critical here: Is there clarity on what these principles are? As the client, are you adhering to these principles when operating with agencies? Are you measuring performance against them? Are they part of your governance model and approach to other important agency management functions, such as compensation, performance evaluation and collaboration? Productive and lasting partnerships are only possible when there is a committed effort to enable both parties to be their very best.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to work with the top brands in the world. There is one thing that I consistently notice in the way they manage their businesses: They ask themselves the tough questions. They challenge their agencies but also take the time to challenge themselves in the process, allowing them to take on a leadership role in the industry.

Every advertiser should ask himself or herself tough questions if they seek to build remarkable winning partnerships and continue to deliver the best outcomes with their agencies, time and time again.

Follow Bruno Gralpois (@gralpois), Agency Mania Solutions (@agencymania) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

By: Bruno Gralpois, Co-Founder & Principal