Summertime is the perfect season to invest effort in improving how client-agency teams work together, and fix it if they are not. As leading advertising industry consultants, we see current reasons behind the ongoing churn in client-agency relationships: Companies change ad agencies to bring on additive capability they don’t get from current resources or to resolve a problem with their current advertising teams. Yet most marketing leaders also appreciate that while the transition to new marketing models may be necessary, the change or addition of more advertising agency resources can be disruptive and expensive. Most are open to fix-it strategies.
Advertising agencies focus a lot of energy on the pursuit of new business. Yet smart agencies also invest effort in protecting the relationships and revenue they enjoy from their current clients. The devastating surprise of a change in their status, reduced compensation or client’s decision to move to a multi-agency model can be downright tough, especially for the incumbent agency that has helped build their clients’ businesses over a long period of time. It’s time for some client maintenance and upkeep effort.
Advertising Agency Reviews
Both clients and agency leaders can use the summertime to evaluate the client-agency relationship and the quality of work. Clients will embrace the invitation to air underlying dissatisfaction and state their future scope needs as we head into 2018 budget planning.
A client-agency relationship review is the best platform to allow agencies to offer up suggestions to improve ways of working. It’s not a topic an agency team member feels secure in bringing up to clients otherwise! It’s also the perfect process to get their clients’ feedback regarding the advertising agency’s highest value contributions to those companies. With this important perspective in hand, agency leaders can then work to secure their position and expand their services from their position of strength.
A client-agency relationship review allows people to identify and respond to percolating problems. Current concerns, however mundane or political, are red flags to be addressed asap. Action is the best defense against the pressure on clients to fire to solve the problem, and hire again, a disruptive pattern in our industry.
Here are three ways to move forward:
1. Apply Fresh Paint
Strategic, intentional change for the better gives clients a sense of renewed commitment and vitality from their agency suppliers. Take the time to evaluate the current work and ways of working to identify 3 – 5 areas of meaningful change. Use relevant data to capture and merchandise the positive results from a client’s previous advertising spend. Beyond advertising campaign performance, look specifically at the 3 Ps: people, process and projects.
People: Talent, the value prop of any agency. Any needed changes or additions to staff needed can be set in motion quickly. Ad agencies seeking to shore up client relationships might expand their overall resource network, inviting outsiders in to build a wide and collaborative group of experts: create an industry-specific advisory board, identify new alliance partners, or try some personal networking to connect people to each other. Doing so brings value to your clients. Clients can do their part too and can refer new business prospects to their agencies and boost the agency’s financial viability. And it’s easy to thank people organically, affirming the positive behaviors that you appreciate.
Process: Continuous improvement should be a way of life. Clients seek increased output and lesser costs. Hint: time to streamline decision-making and approval processes.
Projects: Timing is everything! New projects, solutions and business-building programs are always welcomed but they need to be scoped and presented before the 2018 budget season. Get out your wish list for ideas you have mulled over and want to recommend. Don’t assume the status quo is enough. Clients like new options and energy.
2. Pulling Weeds
Client-agency conflict happens. The process of problem solving and conflict resolution can feel like tricky territory. The goal to produce innovative solutions and stronger relationships keep teams focused on potential positive outcomes.
Advertising agencies have it in them to solve for weedy problems if they know about them. They can apply their innate critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity skills to identify fresh ways of improving the delivery of agency services in real time. Often the best ideas for better client service come from the front lines.
Clients too can invest time in exploring in what ways they contribute to or detract from the quality of work from their advertising agencies.
3. DIY or Pro?
Sometimes it’s fun to take on a summer DIY project. More often than not, we (ahem, I) start something and then realize that it’s may be better to hire the professional.
Engaging a qualified advertising industry consultant to facilitate a client-agency performance review sounds a bit intimidating. We don’t want to fix what we don’t think is broken. Or invite an outsider in. Yet facilitated client-advertising agency team evaluation is often needed to produce better outcomes, good for both parties. A client-agency relationship review requires trust, good judgement, external perspective and a measure of creativity for proposed changes to stick. Proven turnkey processes also make it painless. And those thorny client-agency compensation issues may feel uncomfortable to get into. They are a bit like my summer rose garden; they need our attention for things to grow and thrive.
And the Livin’ is Easy
For advertising agencies and advertisers alike, now is a perfect time to recommit to a stronger future with your partners. For advertising agencies, investing resources to lock in the loyalty of current clients is critical to future growth and business development. These efforts increase your social currency within any organization and protect the base.
For marketing leaders, tending to your primary agency partner or full roster of advertising agencies, and improving the ways in which you work with them, is the precursor to a successful, results-oriented year ahead.