Working with an Agency: 13 Game-Changing Tips
Last update: 20 July 2023 at 01:43 pm
Forging a productive relationship with your agency can be the secret ingredient to your success. It’s a partnership that requires mutual understanding, clear communication, and a shared vision.
This comprehensive guide provides 13 insightful tips to help you navigate this important partnership. From establishing clear goals and promoting open communication to building trust and embracing long-term commitments, we cover the A-Z of cultivating a thriving agency-client relationship.
They’re game-changing strategies that can transform your collaboration from good, to outstanding.
Understanding Each Other’s Expectations
Tip 1: Clearly Define Your Goals
You wouldn’t set off on a road trip without a destination in mind, and working with an agency is no different. Without clear objectives, you might end up going round in circles. For instance, instead of saying “we want more brand awareness,” say, “we aim to increase our social media following by 30% within the next quarter.”
The clarity will guide your agency’s strategies and eliminate guesswork.
On the flip side, vague goals could lead to misalignment and waste valuable resources. Consider a scenario where an agency, in an attempt to fulfill this goal, focuses heavily on broad-scale public relations and mass media advertisement.
However, your primary audience might be 18-24, more digitally inclined and active on all social platforms. Was it the right strategy?
As a result, not only do you miss out on engaging with your target audience effectively, but you also spend precious resources on ineffective strategies.
Tip 2: Understand the Agency’s Expertise
Picture this: you hire a renowned sushi chef, then ask them to cook you a steak. Similarly, understanding your agency’s core competencies ensures you’re leveraging their strengths. An agency specializing in SEO clearly wouldn’t be the best fit for a rebranding project.
Waters get muddied further when it comes to “full-stack” or “360 agencies”. These are agencies who do a bit of everything, and often have a competitive advantage creating an integrated campaign as a result.
But let’s imagine you have a PR crisis in your company, and are working with a 360 agency renowned for their social media prowess.
They may be ill-equipped to handle the intricacies of managing a public relations crisis. Their responses might be too slow, inadequately addressing stakeholders’ concerns or even, at times, inadvertently inflaming the situation. This could result in a tarnished brand reputation, a loss in consumer trust, and potentially a drop in sales
So ask pointed questions about their previous projects and successes. Ignoring this step might land you in hot water, with an agency ill-equipped for your needs.
Communication is Key
Tip 3: Establish Regular Check-ins
The key to any relationship, including the one with your agency, is communication. Don’t leave them in the dark. Regular check-ins allow you to steer the ship in the right direction. For example, scheduling a weekly call to discuss progress and updates can make a world of difference.
In contrast, a lack of communication could lead to misunderstandings, and by the time you realize it, you might be too far off course.
The check-ins you should think about setting up from day one of your collaboration are:
- An initial review 3 months after new agency appointment (this time frame depends somewhat on the scope of the project).
- Overall performance review (6-12 months, depending on project scope)
- Immediate feedback after critical meetings or campaign activity
- For a massive, ongoing campaign you should think about weekly check-ins on progress.
- For smaller tasks or projects, bi-weekly or even monthly meetings tend to be more common.
Each check-in should have a clear agenda to maintain focus.
This can include an overview of current projects, updates on ongoing tasks, discussion of any hurdles, and strategic planning for the future. And both parties should have a chance to voice concerns or suggestions. To ensure the meetings are efficient, send the agenda in advance, so everyone can come prepared.
The frequency of check-ins depends on the complexity and scale of your projects.
And avoid micromanaging or having too many meetings, as this can lead to inefficiency and agency burnout.
Tip 4: Promote Open and Honest Communication
An open-door policy goes a long way in building trust. Encourage your agency to voice their ideas, suggestions, and concerns.
Without this openness, vital ideas might never see the light of day.
Start by explicitly stating to your agency, “We value your expert opinion. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas, big or small. There’s no such thing as a bad idea, only a stepping stone to a great one.” Encourage them to be open with their thoughts, suggestions, and even concerns.
You could also initiate the practice of ‘Idea Sharing Sessions.’ For example, tell them, “Let’s set aside some time each month specifically for brainstorming. Bring your wildest, most innovative ideas to the table. Let’s think outside the box together.”
Remember, candid communication can lead to innovative solutions.
Tip 5: Use the Right Tools for Collaboration
There’s no shortage of collaboration tools out there. Choosing the right ones can streamline communication and keep everyone on the same page. For instance, tools like Slack for communication, trello or Asana for project management, or Google Drive for file sharing can save you a lot of headaches.
Here’s an example of the tool stack for Blue Ocean Robotics, which takes in many of the most common ones, which could serve as inspiration:
- Project Management: Trello with Scrum for Trello add-on
- Communication: Slack, Skype, & Google Hangouts, Gmail
- Notes: Trello, Google Drive
With something as simple as proposing, “Let’s share our files on Google Drive, not word” you’re ensuring that everyone has access to the latest versions of files, minimizing the risk of working on outdated documents.
Tracking project milestones on Asana, or Trello (it’s younger cousin) can streamline workflow, reduce the risk of missing deadlines, and provide a visual representation of your project’s status, helping internal communication with any stakeholders.
If you ignore this aspect, however, you could be setting yourself up for a logistical nightmare.
Building a Successful Working Relationship
Tip 6: Trust Your Agency
Trust is the foundation of any successful partnership. Don’t be a backseat driver.
Allow your agency the creative freedom to do what they do best. After all, you hired them for their expertise.
Trust doesn’t mean relinquishing all control, but rather fostering an environment where your agency feels empowered to flex their creative muscles, propose innovative strategies, and execute them confidently.
It’s telling them, “Here are our goals. We trust your expertise and creativity to reach them.”
On the other hand, lack of trust can stifle creativity and hinder your project’s success. It’s about building a long-term, symbiotic relationship with your agency, one where they’re not just service providers but strategic partners.
Tip 7: Show Appreciation
Remember, your agency is your partner, not just a service provider. A simple ‘thank you’ or recognition for a job well done can go a long way in building morale. It’s not always about dollars and cents (or pounds and pence!).
Neglecting this could lead to a drop in motivation and productivity.
Tip 8: Respect Their Process
Every agency has a method to their madness. Respecting their process allows them to deliver their best work.
It might be tempting, as a client, to insist that the agency adapt entirely to your way of doing things in house. After all, it’s human nature to find comfort in the familiar.
However, this approach can stifle the agency’s creativity, hinder their productivity, and ultimately, may result in less-than-optimal outcomes.
Respecting an agency’s process is not about stepping back entirely but striking a balance between your input and their creative latitude.
Start by saying, “We understand and respect your creative process. Let’s find a way to integrate our practices for maximum productivity.”
This cooperative approach shows that you respect their expertise and are both interested and open to finding a mutually beneficial way of working together.
Tip 9: Give Constructive Feedback
Nobody likes to be left hanging, especially when it comes to performance. Don’t beat around the bush.
Offer clear, actionable feedback. For example, instead of saying “I don’t like the design,” you could say, “The design feels a bit busy. Can we simplify it?“.
Here are five rules for giving agency feedback:
Comments like “The content doesn’t feel right.” can leave your agency guessing. Instead, provide detailed feedback.
Say, “The blog post lacks some of the industry-specific terminologies that our audience is familiar with, could we incorporate those?” or “The tone of the article seems too formal for our youthful audience, could we make it more conversational?”
Specific feedback eliminates guesswork and provides your agency team with clear action points.
Focus on the Objective, Not the Solution
Rather than dictating solutions, share the problems or objectives.
For instance, instead of saying “Add more images,” you could say, “We need to make the page more engaging. Do you think adding more visuals would help?”
This approach gives the agency creative freedom to find the best solution and leverages their expertise effectively.
Feedback is best served hot 🔥
The sooner you provide feedback, the sooner your agency can make necessary adjustments. Regular check-ins and timely feedback can keep your project on track and prevent minor issues from snowballing into significant roadblocks.
Remember, your agency wantsyour feedback.
Praise the Positives
Constructive feedback isn’t just about pointing out what’s wrong—it’s also about recognizing what’s right. A word of appreciation can boost morale and motivation.
For example, “I love how you captured our brand voice in the copy. Great job!“
Foster Open Dialogue
Encourage your agency to voice their perspectives and suggestions.
You might say, “We value your expertise. What do you think about this?” or “Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve this?” Such open dialogue can lead to innovative solutions and strengthens trust.
Strategies for Long-Term Success With Your Agency
Tip 10: Align on Metrics and KPIs
Numbers don’t lie. Establishing clear metrics and KPIs gives you a quantitative measure of success.
For instance, if your goal is to increase brand visibility, your KPI could be the number of social media impressions. Without agreed-upon KPIs, you’ll remain, unsure of what success looks like.
Make them quantitative. Make them concrete. And make sure you’ve bought into them, on both sides.
Tip 11: Stay Open to New Ideas
Innovation is the lifeblood of marketing. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat.
Embrace new ideas and strategies your agency proposes. It could be the spark that propels your business to new heights. Imagine an agency bullish on TikTok in 2017. Or keen on starting a podcast, in 2010.
But, if you shut down every idea your marketing agency brings, you might miss out on the next big thing.
Tip 12: Think Long-Term, Don’t Shy Away from Change
A fruitful agency-client relationship is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Committing to a long-term partnership allows your agency to deeply understand your business, enabling them to provide tailored solutions that lead to better results over time.
But this doesn’t mean that you should stick with an agency that is not meeting your expectations.
Just as you wouldn’t stick with a pair of shoes that don’t fit, remaining with an agency that isn’t the right fit can be detrimental to your business.
Sticking with the wrong agency can lead to inconsistent strategies, misaligned goals, and ultimately, stagnant growth.
And it might not be to do with expertise. It might be to do with values or industry fit. Or perhaps your company has changed and outgrown your current provider.
Take stock of your agency’s performance regularly, and be open to making the tough decision if things aren’t panning out as expected. Remember, it’s about finding the right partner for your journey to success.
With the right agency, a long-term commitment can be a cornerstone for your business’s growth and prosperity.
Speaking of which…
Tip 13: Continually Review and Adjust
The only constant in life is change. Regularly reviewing your strategies and adjusting them keeps your campaigns relevant and effective. Remember, what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Being rigid and resistant to change could leave you trailing behind your competitors.
Here’s how to do it:
First, identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to your project. These could be quantitative metrics like sales or website traffic or qualitative measures like brand perception. Clear KPIs act as the North Star guiding your project’s direction.
Like a sailor using a compass, consistently measure these KPIs to evaluate your agency’s performance. This could be monthly sales figures or quarterly brand audits.
Regular measurement allows you to track progress and spot any issues early on.
Compare Against Benchmarks
Reviewing performance isn’t just about data collection; it’s also about interpretation.
Compare your results against industry benchmarks or your own historical data. If your organic traffic has grown by 10%, but the industry average is 20%, there may be room for improvement.
Hold a Performance Review Meeting
Once you’ve gathered and analyzed all this data, hold a meeting with your agency. Discuss the results, address any concerns, and ask for their input.
Remember, the goal is not to point fingers but to identify areas of improvement and plan the next steps.
Here’s a framework you can use for your performance review:
|Timing of Review||– New agency appointment|
– Ongoing management
-After critical meetings or campaign activity
|– Schedule initial review a few months after new agency appointment|
– Regular reviews as part of ongoing management
– Immediate feedback after critical meetings or campaign activity
|– Set reminders for reviews in your calendar|
– Use project milestones or campaign launches as triggers for reviews
|Metrics||– Quantitative metrics (e.g., successful campaigns, ROI)|
– Qualitative metrics (e.g., creativity, communication, responsiveness)
|– Identify key quantitative metrics relevant to your business goals|
– Identify key qualitative metrics that reflect the agency’s performance beyond numbers
|– Review your business goals and identify metrics that directly reflect these goals. Make sure these are clear.|
-Communicate from the outset aspects of the agency’s work that you value but can’t measure numerically, such as creativity or communication style
|Frequency||– Light-touch reviews for ongoing monitoring|
- Deep-dive reviews for deeper investigation and analysis
|– Regular light-touch reviews (e.g., quarterly)|
- Less frequent deep-dive reviews (e.g., biannual or annual)
|Evaluation Process||– Two-way evaluation|
– Independent management
– Evolution and review
|– Ensure both parties provide input and feedback|
– Keep the process simple and easy to complete
– Consider independent management for impartiality
– Maintain key questions over time for consistency
– Review and update the process as needed
|– Use a relevant survey tool that can allow for communication on both sides.|
|Remuneration||– Linking performance evaluation to remuneration||– Construct a KPI-based performance evaluation programme|
– Link agency remuneration to performance evaluation results
|– Identify KPIs that reflect your business goals and the agency’s performance|
-Negotiate a remuneration structure that rewards the agency for meeting or exceeding these KPIs
So… How do I best work with my agency?
Building a successful agency-client relationship is not a walk in the park. It requires effort, understanding, and communication from both sides.
A one-sided relationship will only lead to misunderstanding and confusion: and that’s not an optimal partnership.
Looking at the bigger picture, alignment on KPIs, being open to new ideas, and committing to a long-term partnership ensure your relationship can weather any storm.
Lastly, continual review and adjustment are your safeguards in an ever-changing landscape, helping you maintain relevance and effectiveness.
A Word on Your New Agency
Each step you take in strengthening this relationship is a step towards business growth. Encourage open communication, embrace new ideas, and commit to long-term growth. Take the time to recognize and appreciate the agency’s efforts and respect their processes.
The benefits will be two-fold; as your agency thrives, so does your business.
A thriving, productive agency-client relationship doesn’t just benefit your agency; it leads to your business’s growth and success. The journey towards this rewarding partnership starts today.
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