Three keys to getting the greatest value from your client/agency relationship

So your two companies have gotten married, enjoyed a lovely honeymoon of back patting and optimism but now there’s this nagging feeling that maybe you’re not on the same page. That you’re not syncing well. Or maybe your efforts just aren’t delivering the results you’d hoped for. Maximizing the combined efforts of two separate organizations is the holy grail of collaboration and success. And much like said grail, it’s often just as frustratingly elusive. Aligning them so that they effectively operate as one marketing powerhouse doesn’t need to be overly complicated, but can be incredibly difficult to achieve without a few important and agreed upon points.

1. Don’t pay your agency to be busy. Pay them to achieve.

For decades now clients have been inadvertently encouraging agencies to take longer and use cheaper talent on their business. Think about it. Anyone getting paid by the hour and wants to make more money inherently looks to find ways to add more hours. It’s human nature. Agencies are no different. Compensation that is based on hourly rates and time runs counter to most client needs of being faster and smarter.

For agencies, this lack of alignment is often at the crux of relationship issues. Re-calibrating so that the agency is incentivized along the same lines as the client’s senior marketing people ensures that everyone’s goals are the same and that you’re all driving for success.

2. Insist on continuous improvement.

This probably sounds like a “duh” point, but one often overlooked aspect of this is that it runs both ways. Agencies should absolutely be bench-marking, reporting and optimizing everything they do on a client’s behalf. In addition, clients should be focused on always making sure their marketing spends are tightly aligned with business outcomes. Are budgets appropriate for the stated goals the agency is accountable for? Is the money being spent in a way that maximizes return instead of merely mitigating risk? As needs and goals shift, spends should shift accordingly.

When client and agency work in concert to always be better, they not only give themselves the greatest opportunity for success, but also the added benefit of making both parties feel as though each is directly supporting the other to achieve that success.

3. Be clear with regard to talent and roles.

The fastest road to mutual frustration is to be paying high-level thinkers and thought leaders to bang out low-level executions or expecting task-oriented executers to strategically think and ideate. Every organization needs both to a certain degree. Making sure that individual clients and their agency counterparts are on the same page will help manage expectations and provide a staffing blueprint that plays to the strengths of both companies.

Clearly, there are a number of things that go into cultivating a successful and profitable client/agency relationship. But getting these key foundational elements sorted out and agreed upon will go a long way towards ensuring the marriage your companies entered into is a great one.

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