Let open communication drive your partnership
By Angela Michka and Heather Bowen Ray
Wonder how to get more out of your ad agency or marketing firm relationship? Try these tips to make your small agency partnership more productive.
1. Remember why you hired your agency.
You hired your agency for a reason, right? Agencies can bring valuable perspective and special skills. Your account team may not have as much experience in your industry as you, but they know how to market your product or service, no matter what business you’re in. If you respect the skills your partners bring, you’re more likely to see great results. For instance, a graphic designer knows things about visual hierarchy, paper stock and type fonts that you would never even want to know. But if you want work that, well, WORKS, give your agency partners the time and space to do their best for you.
2. Let your agency carry the vendor load.
Cutting your agency out of the tasks of sourcing and supervising vendors can seem like a good idea, but is almost always a bad one. Your agency’s relationships with printers, photographers and direct marketing firms probably predate their partnership with you. Not only should your agency be able to identify the right vendors for the right jobs, it should also be able to attain each vendor’s best work and best rates. For purposes of accountability and quality control, you want your agency to be on the hook with its vendors. The best way to ensure your agency takes full responsibility for the work it does is to give it control over the finished product – and everyone involved in creating it.
3. Share accountability.
Be clear about your expectations at the start of projects and along the way. To measure outcomes of marketing efforts, set clear goals and build in checkpoints at the beginning of the process. Your agency should help you develop ways to measure effectiveness of marketing efforts and develop up-front financial benchmarks to help drive decision-making. Agreeing on deadlines from the beginning ensures there is a mutual understanding of a project’s urgency. This impacts an agency’s commitment of resources and designation of priorities. Make accountability a shared mandate. Acknowledge that it is a two-way street.
4. Don’t stew.
If you’re not getting what you want and need from your agency, talk to the people who touch your account every day, and be open about your frustrations. If your agency’s responsiveness is an issue, formalize your expectations. If creative product isn’t up to snuff, have a creative strategy session to communicate what you feel is lacking. Chances are, there are solutions to any problem that will make everyone happier. In the spirit of true partnership, work together to achieve the goals you’ve established for your client/agency relationship, your brand, and your bottom line.
5. Have fun.
Meet quarterly to brainstorm, think big picture, and collaborate without the day-to-day distractions of the ongoing tactical work. Go off campus. Take turns planning these sessions to be productive, and foster an environment that encourages innovation and creativity. While everyone seeks the common goal of building a stronger brand or increasing profits, there’s no reason that interacting with your agency couldn’t be the best part of your workday.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Angela Michka has more than 20 years of experience in market research and campaigns for national and international brands. Currently Director of Client Services at The Creative Department, Inc. in Kansas City, Angela has provided marketing strategies for clients like SMG, Kansas City Cancer Center, and HNTB. Formerly a partner of On Your Mark, an innovative marketing and research firm focused on female consumer behavior, Angela worked with Adidas, Timex, and Rawlings. She earned her BS in Marketing from Emporia State University and began her advertising career at Barkley/Kansas City and Sherry Matthews Advocacy Advertising/Austin.
Heather Bowen Ray, owner of Murmur, has served in both client- and agency- side roles while working on marketing communications and branding projects. Heather earned an MS in Marketing at Johns Hopkins University and a BS in Journalism from the University of Kansas. She has instructed university communications courses and regularly contributes content for the International Social Marketing Association, which encourages use of commercial marketing techniques for social good.