Having worked at a senior level at both a brand and agency, I’ve identified the secret sauce to a productive, healthy and mutually rewarding agency relationship.
As a client, you’re investing in a partnership that has the potential to greatly enhance brand reputation, create alliances, drive business success and make you look good in the process. Why not do the little things to make the relationship gel?
Below are tips to increase the likelihood of a successful collaboration and thriving long-term relationship.
It begins with trust
Yes, trust must be earned in any relationship. But how quickly a brand “allows” its agency to earn that trust will determine how soon the agency can do its best work on your behalf. Lowering your barriers to the agency’s freedom to challenge and even disagree with you when warranted will inevitably help you arrive at a better place. Treat them as a partner, not a vendor, and the very reasons you retained them in the first place will shine through.
Don’t let budget create an adversarial relationship
Agencies want to do great work. And great agencies are far more interested in long-term relational possibilities than a short-term “money grab.” You have mutually agreed to a budget, and any agency that tries to upsell you once the contract is signed is setting the stage for a short-lived tenure. Likewise, there should be no need for a brand to “remind” its agency of the budget. Such reminders are condescending and suggest a lack of trust. In a healthy brand-agency dynamic, the topic of agency fees should not creep into your working discussions unless the client proffers a clear out-of-scope request.
Let them in
Brands that want the most from their agencies should encourage agency access to all appropriate and relevant information that will provide the most complete picture, past and present, of the company’s relationships with its employees, partners and customers, and its presence in the marketplace. In other words, the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t make the agency “hunt.” Barring legal or compliance restrictions on sharing information, your agency should not have to ask repeatedly for access. Presumably, your executed NDA alleviates cause for concern.
Mutual respect must be a given
Those of us who have “been in the business” for more than an hour or two fully understand and appreciate the value of mutual respect by payer or payee. When anything less is in the mix, it is obvious, unprofessional and detrimental to any meaningful partnership. An agency can certainly tell when a client treats them as second class. And, when a client is disrespected, even subtly, that represents an agency on a self-destructive mission. A client-agency alliance is not about servitude. Treat your agency with respect, and they will work their tail off for you.
The bottom line: A healthy agency-brand relationship can produce amazing results for both partners. The operative word is “partner.” Treat it as such, and the opportunities are limitless.
Michael Myers is an EVP at Goodfuse Communications.