Manage Relationships, Not Agencies

Recently I’ve witnessed an increased emphasis on the transactional aspects of work between clients and agencies — the “deliverables,” “services,” “rates,” etc. In an environment like this, the idea of “managing the agency,” distracts team members from managing the relationship — the very thing that drives the growth these team members are responsible for achieving.

It’s increasingly evident the scope of responsibility for CMOs continues to expand across the customer and employee experience. Brands must resonate externally and internally. Pipelines need to deliver positive ROI at a velocity that meets business needs, regardless of sales cycles. There is an expectation to use data to increase relevance and drive business intelligence. Technology and innovation continue to compete against compliance and policy, requiring careful thought and judgment.

As a marketer, you need to rely on partners who understand the experience you are creating and are invested in your growth. If you have the right partner, you can move beyond “managing the agency” to cultivating relationships with people who understand your business, are passionate about the vision and are willing to go the distance with you.

If this makes sense, then get heavily involved in agency evaluations. Agencies are people businesses. Your ability to achieve success is dependent on the chemistry and connections you form with the agency. Taking the time to get to know the people within the agency is necessary for you to judge their commitment and make decisions based on your confidence in them and your desire to work with them.

When you trust the people you work with, then benefit from their perspectives. After all, you are buying the experience of the people within the agency. Structure your relationship in a way that breaks down the siloes of “client” and “agency” to create a team environment where proactive thinking is encouraged and it’s everyone’s responsibility to be inspirational.

The marketers I’ve seen succeed are those who invest in talent — which is ultimately the most effective way to control costs. They know the value of what isn’t listed on a rate card, like transparency and proactivity. They know one idea can change the trajectory of a brand. Most importantly, they understand the best way to evaluate an agency is to compare the investment made to the impact created — and the experience of making that impact. And by building relationships with reliable people, they achieve a level of accountability that others won’t.

The type of marketers agencies want to work with know and trust the people within the agency, value their perspectives and are willing to invest in the relationships beyond the deliverables. And the agencies worth investing in are the ones who build relationships rather than sell services. The reward for both partners is personal and organizational growth.