5 things to consider to make your agency relationship strong

The client/advertising agency relationship is one that at its best can be extraordinarily rewarding (for both parties, as well as the audiences they serve). But like any relationship, it takes a mutual commitment and ongoing work. And, especially at the beginning, it takes risk. There is a vast sea of talent to draw upon, so how can you tell which is the ideal agency for you? Here are five things to consider.

1. No One Knows Your Business Better than You

It’s always good to have an experienced agency partner, but at the end of the day, you know your business better than anyone else. So why have an agency at all? Well, the most important thing a talented agency can provide is perspective. They can draw upon their collective experience and apply key understandings to your specific market, your brand and your customer. Because of this simple fact, it’s imperative to keep your agency partner plugged in. You are making an investment. By sharing information and integrating your agency into your team, you’ll enable them to contribute to more insightful strategy and more effective problem-solving.

2. Beware of Style Over Substance

It’s an easy trap to fall into. You ask for a creative presentation and you are wowed. Solid creative should have that effect, after all. But the true measure of quality creative is much more complicated than that. Does it really address your business objectives? Is it going to be able to stand up to regulatory review? Is it customer-centric? Creativity for just the sake of creativity is similar to unharnessed power. It needs to be focused and applied intelligently in order to reap benefits. It’s also important to understand the context in which you are competing and communicating. Sometimes a more direct approach can be differentiating. Lastly, beware of letting personal likes and dislikes get in the way of sound decision-making. We all judge through lenses of personal preference, but we need to maintain a strong contextual focus.

3. The Fit is Foundational

Your agency should fit in as a part of your internal team. They need to be able to function in a seamless manner. Personalities and egos need to mesh. To do this, both parties need to invest and build trust. The investment is in time and the effort to really know one another. To understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses to be able to help each other compensate. Trust is something that can only be earned, but both sides need to provide the opportunity for this to happen. Commitments need to be met. And when change happens, which is inevitable, you need to be adept at adapting.

4. Find Your Pathway to Productivity

Every company has its own internal operating procedures. Every agency has its own protocols, as well. These processes need to intertwine. There’s always room for some flexibility, but it is helpful to remember that these processes have generally been established to make both the company and agency as effective as possible. The time upfront to understand customary steps can help avoid unnecessary missteps along the journey. It’s also critical to recognize that your agency partner has the benefit of experience outside of your specific needs. This is one of the greatest assets your partner can provide. If this is something you and the team value, than empowering the agency to share its expertise should be made explicit.

5. Communicate Openly and Frequently

Nobody is expert at mind-reading. Especially in the beginning of a relationship. Don’t put each other in the position of having to perform guesswork. Instead, share information. Maintain a regular dialogue. Provide feedback regularly. A good agency will take this and run with it to provide you what you need before you realize you need it. It takes time, but it is achievable. Strong agency relationships can lead to anticipating needs and transform problem solving into a more intuitive exercise. The way to accomplish this? Communication.

These five items are pragmatic. They might be thought of as common sense. But when we are operating within our ever-quickening day-to-day lives, where expectations only soar higher and higher, this perspective can be grounding. It can serve as a foundation that can support triumphs and withstand setbacks. Ultimately, when the relationship is fueled by honest communication and trust, there is little that can get in the way of accomplishing great things together.

by Jonathan D. Katz

05/05/2014