The relationship between an advertiser and their agency is often considered a strategic partnership. However, it takes efforts from both parties to create a true partnership. If you are an advertiser and your existing agency is making you spin circles in your desk chair, you should begin to ask yourself some key questions to help identify what is currently missing from the relationship. And keep in mind, you may be part of the problem. So, before you decide to hire a search consultant, stop spinning in your chair, and consider asking yourself the following questions:
1. “Does Transparency Exist?"
Transparency builds trust in any type of relationship, and with an agency, it all begins with fully understanding how they are being compensated for their services. According to businessinsider.com, “...most client-agency contracts insist that all discounts, rebates, and benefits earned by media spending be returned to the client. But if a TV station returns a discount to a media-buying agency there is no way for the client to know about that payment if the agency does not disclose it.” Invoicing alone should indicate how and where your dollars are being spent. Both you and your agency need to be aligned and clear on the budget, content and messaging, strategic direction, and goals of the brand. If there is no clear direction or a lack of transparency exists, you run the risk of not knowing where your dollars are being spent and what you’re actually receiving with your money.
2. “Are they listening to me?”
When interacting with your agency, are they considering your advice, knowledge, concerns, and direction? You know your brand best, the product/service, its benefits and target consumers. A good agency should guide and challenge you to drive collaboration to find the best possible route for market success…together. However, if you are not actively involved, therein lies a problem that needs to be addressed. As the client, you should also be actively providing input and direction into the project.
3. “Do I have any homework?”
Homework, you say!? Yes, homework. Your agency should be giving you assignments and projects to be working on to contribute to the ongoing marketing campaign efforts. For example, such tasks may be building a strong brief to dictate the agency’s assignment. Or the task may be smaller, more tactical efforts such as blogging and social media interactions to keep your brand active and relevant. An agency that has the right idea will ask you to put your knowledge to work to keep you on the map. Again, as stated previously, no one knows your brand more than you. Your thoughts should be prevalent and present in all marketing channels to maintain your connection with your brand and target audience, and in the end, reach your strategic goals.
4. “Do I Have Access to their Marketing Tools?”
Your marketing agency should be allowing you access to the same tools they are using to build and promote your brand and track performance. For example, if your agency has access to Nielsen Data, you should be able to see the insights, solutions and output from this tool. Overall, you should understand the tools being utilized and what value they deliver. If the tools cannot be shared, at the very least have visibility into the deliverables they produce. In this day and age, there are many marketing tools that can produce various types of measureable reporting detailing how your campaigns/marketing tactics are performing. Some of the tools may include visibility into market share, social reach, website views, etc. When using your agency’s tools and/or reviewing the output, are you coming up with the same assumptions observations and conclusions? You should see exactly what they are seeing without any question. This allows you, as a team, to work towards the same goals and understand exactly if your efforts are working or not.
5. “Excuses, again?!”
Is your agency constantly making excuses as to why an assignment is taking so long to complete? Do you receive the dreaded response of “Sorry, that’s out of our scope?” Agencies should be upfront with their deadlines and scope of work before you even start a project or sign a contract. This ties in very well with your agency being transparent with you.
Once you have answers to the questions outlined above, share your thoughts with your agency. Direct dialogue is necessary to build trust and your current agency deserves honest feedback on their performance. A great deal of work goes into an agency search and a possible transition to a new agency. Therefore, take the time to fully evaluate the current state and determine if there is a solution to fixing what is wrong in your current relationship. At the end of the day, an advertiser wants an agency that brings out the best in their brand and company, one that will work side by side with the advertiser and pick their brain on where they envision their brand going. Working with an agency should be fun... and not cause you angst! So, take some time, think about these questions and after all is said and done, ask yourself a final question: “Is it still worth it?”
Picture used from: www.precisionmarketinggroup.com