Getting value out of your client agency relationship

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My first real job out of college was working for a top marketing agency out of Boston. It was a pretty competitive gig, so I—like others in the agency world—immediately knew my worth. I worked as an account coordinator on a few top accounts coordinating various account-like tasks.  I was asked to participate in multiple rebranding strategy brainstorms and think tanks. I cut reels for Super Bowl commercials, and I even worked on the agency’s first global account.

The lifestyle was great! A fun dress code, free food, never-ending merchandise, parties, networking opportunities, great friendships, and solid camaraderie. However, over time, I came to realize that I was challenged to hit major goals without having direct access to the brands I was servicing.

While working in an agency setting, I had challenges in trying to identify client needs and how to truly satisfy their goals. In my career, I wanted to be more involved at the strategy stage and craved to understand the brand and market identity.

Inside corporate marketing

Being a good mix of a creative and analytical thinker, corporate marketing fed my desire to learn more about financial goals, reports, the marketplace, and influencing the end consumer. A lot of new responsibilities arose when I made this transition: cross-channel communications, politics, internal process and approvals, keeping up with new trends in marketing—too many responsibilities and not enough bandwidth. I was stretched thin, and it only made sense to hire an agency to work as a behind-the-scenes partner and offer value where my marketing team was limited.

My relationship with the vendor was relatively positive until the day the agency presented a concept targeted to millennials. Their plan was clearly out of touch with our strategy; our target audience was baby boomers.  The vendor’s misunderstanding set our campaign timeline back over a month, effectively delaying campaign-related revenue.

Working with a partner

The challenge then became, how do I get my agency to truly understand my needs and to also satisfy our corporate goals?

client interaction

That’s when I realized I needed a vendor I could trust as a partner. Ideally, a partner that understood my business objectives and worked with my brand team to ensure that our marketing campaigns were consistent with the brand. I not only needed to trust that they understood our campaign objectives, but also that they researched to see if our campaigns would reach our target audience and make overall sense for our business. Now that I have come full circle, I am able to apply practice from both the agency world and the corporate world and how to fully understand the development of a marketing partnership.

In an age where we have great access to information and can easily share tips and tactics, it’s important to understand how the client–agency relationship is changing. Agency partners should:

  • Work as an extension of your marketing team to make the best of your resources and push boundaries.
  • Work as a behind-the-scenes partner and take the time to learn and understand the brand, internal challenges, and marketplace.
  • Identify opportunities early in the game and implement agile strategies to simplify the approval process.
  • Work to help manage other vendor relationships and bridge the gap in communication across internal and external teams.
  • Share real-world examples as a point of reference for creative concepts, but ensure partners don’t view them as literal examples.
  • Share progress, failures, and quarterly metrics reports. Using data can help optimize the campaign.

RememberDon’t pick an agency. Pick a partner.