Organizational Culture

Unpacking the Win

EQ Agency Search

Usually there is only one winner.

Marketing leaders make agency-hire decisions based on a very rationale selection process, yet the final it’s-time-to-pick-the-winner conversation is steeped in a lot of feel-good sentiments.

All things being vetted, scoped and priced, the client will choose the agency that they feel “gets us better than anyone else”.

In three recent consulting engagements for diverse but equally awesome companies, MOEN, FirstLight Homecare and Planet Fitness, it occurred to me that there are common social dynamics that ultimately impact the client teams’ confidence to choose one qualified advertising agency over another.

Intangible Assets

As we connect global brands and world class agencies, we account for interpersonal dynamics by sourcing agencies that align culturally with our clients. From the beginning, this organizational-culture orientation sets the stage for a mutually rewarding vetting experience. Talented, like-minded people share core values as to what is important and why. Together they sort through the weeds of brand building in the noisy and fragmented digital media era. Like a dance of mutual attraction both clients and agencies continue to assess each other. Are you right for me? Am I right for you?

Hiring the right agency for one’s company and entrusting it with dollars for creative brand building is a high stakes decision for the marketer. And one that is visible internally. Get it right: brands (and careers) flourish. Get it wrong: disappointment and conflict bog down everything and everyone.

The complex social dynamic that accelerates confidence in making the right choice becomes self-evident. The deciding factor is high Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Most clients will choose the agency that demonstrates the highest Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in attitude and behaviors. It is the differentiator that results in on-target recommendations that resonate.

Hot Stuff, Cool Beans

All types of personalities (individual and organizational) can and should develop a mastery of EQ, especially considering how organizational norms can vary by vertical industry. For example, “hot” EQ behavior, like ambition and drive, may be valued by a fast growing franchisee-based business like Planet Fitness. Alternately, a fast growing franchisee-based business like FirstLight Homecare may value other “cool” EQ behavior like patience, stability and listening skills, consistent with their purpose-based mission to care and serve. To see how these strengths could be viewed as weaknesses without EQ, study the chart below.


Hard sell

An agency, or anyone pitching their services for that matter, is in an admittedly ironic position. Often the act of competing is by its very nature aggressive. Clients say they want to hire results-oriented, performance-based agency partners that are passionate and proactive. On the surface one would think aggression is prized. And while it is often what gets you the invite to compete, it doesn’t drive the win.

Balancing Act

Likeability, born from high EQ attitude and behavior, can give a competitive advantage to agencies that compete for new business. Empathy, charm, persuasion, listening with the goal of understanding, followed by actions of careful and meticulous preparation, often influence the rubric for success. High interest can be triggered by high EQ behaviors that are positive, like the shared will to win in the marketplace. (We all love Shark Barbara Corcoran.)

But conversely, we also know a Barney Stinson or two. Agencies that can coach their colleagues on self-regulation to dial back attitudes and behaviors clients may perceive as low EQ will prevent social penalty and elimination.

Good for the Gander

Clients can amp up high EQ behavior too! Agencies thrive in relationships where emotional intelligence guides the ways in which teams come together. In fact, most agencies prize those clients that are good to their own people and respect the agency as a business in its own right. Favorite client status goes to those companies that avoid low EQ behaviors (being judging, picky, demanding, or simply resistant to change) even though the agency scope of the work requires a lot of asking, evaluating and change-making.

EQ is anchored in the premise that how we use our talents, with high degrees of self-awareness and self-regulation, is a predictor for success in life, in business and with others.
Winners understand that the best.