Client agency relationship

Working with marketing agencies and partners gives you access to new knowledge and services but can be a challenge to make sure you get good value for your investment. How do you set up the client agency relationship and how do you ensure a good and profitable way of working? Read on for some ‘must have’ requirements in your agency set-up.

Agency relationship

Marketing agencies provide access to specialist expertise that you would otherwise have to do yourself. Marketing agencies also bring diversity to your thinking and approach. They can pull in extra resources when you are working to a tight deadline. They will often buy you coffee or lunch.

But, remember that your marketing agency relationship should be professional and focussed on delivering your business goal. You’re paying the agency after all. 

Marketing agencies can cause clients a lot of frustration if the culture of the agency is different to the client.

They will likely be working with other clients. Their approach may not always fit with how you see the world.

In this article we give a few tips we’ve learned on how to get the best out of the client agency relationship.

Handshake to symbolise agency relationship

Clear and agreed goals

It can feel like marketing agencies go out of their way to be your ‘friend’ at work. Even though you generally don’t pay your actual friends. Well, we don’t. But you have to remember that the whole reason your relationship exists is to deliver a business goal. 

As the client, your agency is being paid to bring their expertise to a part of your brand management. Most commonly that is in the field of communications or market research. 

That means what the marketing agency does for you needs measured against your business goals.  Are you creating brand awareness and conversion?  Do consumers increasingly choose your brand? Have you met your sales targets?

The impact of unclear agency goals

We’ve been in many client-agency meetings where it’s clear there is no common goal. If you don’t make the goal clear, marketing agency teams will quite happily insert their own goals. Maybe they are looking for professional recognition? Maybe they are looking to win awards? Or are they looking to use your work to win other clients?

So the first priority with marketing agencies is to make sure the goal or goals are agreed and written down. Refer to the goals often in meetings. Share your performance and progress with the marketing agencies so you can feel like you are working towards common goals. 

Having a common goal is the first step in building a great marketing agency relationship.

Archery target with arrows - symbolise Target audience

Find routines that suit you both

Most marketing  agency relationships work well when there is some sort of routine in place.

If you have an on-going relationship with the agency, it’s a good habit to have regular Work-in-Progress (WIPs) meetings. These can last an hour, three hours or a whole day every week and it when project progress gets reviewed.  

At these meetings, you review what projects are underway and if they are on-track or off-track to hit their deadline. You also review if there are new briefs coming soon so the agency can plan the right resources. And you review any new developments that might affect the timing or quality of a project being delivered. Is someone sick or leaving? Have the legal guidelines changed? Has the big boss changed his or her mind about what they want from the project?

Informal agency connections

And don’t forget the value of informal connections. A quick coffee (or beer/wine if it’s that time of day) can be a great way to build a better relationship with the agency. Phone calls and emails may feel a little more impersonal than a face to face meeting, but can be a very efficient way to make sure the business and the relationship continues to tick over. These become even more important if you are not geographically close to where your agency are based, in which case you have to rely on technology to be able to communicate regularly. 

Overall, the quality of the client agency relationship comes down to the quality of the relationship between the people involved. So you need to find good routines that fit each other’s styles and let you build positive and impactful ways of working.


Feedback is a gift

Outside the regular WIP meeting, we also recommend a more formal but less regular review to check progress against business goals and KPIs.

Depending on the size or scale of the relationship, this could be as regular as monthly, quarterly or as little as a once a year exercise.

You should take the opportunity to give feedback from you and your team on the key elements of the marketing agency relationship.

These can include the account management, the project management, the overall strategic support and any specialist expertise that is delivered as part of the relationship. That could be creative delivery, it could be media, or analytics or some sort of more specialised technical support.

As part of this process, you should also be asking the agency to give you feedback on your team. Are your briefs clear? Do you share your goals? Is your feedback on projects timely and well-thought out?

Only by making sure your own behaviours land well can you make sure you are building better engagement with the agency.

Handshake to symbolise agency relationship

Three-brains and agencies

Need help getting the best out of your marketing agency? Unsure which ones are right for your business and how to make sure your investment with them is driving a return for your business? 

We have many years of experience as marketers getting the best out of agencies. We offer coaching and consulting services to get the best out of your agency. Contact us by clicking the button below.

Latest marketing blog posts