Client-agency relationships revolve fast today, but here are some good reasons to evolve them as well.
By all reports, agencies have to work harder, be smarter and prove a payout faster to be valued (and retained) today. Fair enough; these are only the same pressures marketers of all stripes are facing.
But the pace of change, and the reasons for it, are fundamentally changing the quality of client-agency relationships as well. Fragmentation of accounts and campaigns plus the short tenure of key employees on both sides make it hard to get to know each other.
There’s a constant readjustment to the three P’s:
- Processes – How we work together
- Personalities – Who we work with
- Perspectives – Why we champion one idea or method over another
Getting those basics right—again—eats up valuable time better spent strategizing and concepting. We have to accept that the tenure of a client-agency relationship is much shorter than it used to be. But I think there are a few speed bumps we should respect along the way.
Clients should value:
- Agencies with strong and growing digital capabilities. If you work with an agency that is constantly innovating and introducing you to new ways to influence customers in the digital realm (web, mobile, apps), they’re worth keeping close.
- Agencies that consistently prove results. Of course, for this to be a meaningful criterion, both client and agency have to agree on what the measures of success are. Any agency that initiates this conversation with you and follows up with a solid reporting program (or eagerly gets to grips with your own reporting scheme) is not to be discarded lightly.
- Maintain relationships at multiple tiers within an client organization. Even if the agency world were more stable, this is a good practice that helps agencies understand the vision of the client’s business as a whole. In a time when the average tenure of a CMO is less than three years, engaging with more of the people running the marketing programs ensures you can keep getting work done in a smart, efficient manner even when key people leave.
- Ensure their own top executives engage with the top management of client organizations. This demonstrates a level of stewardship that is less common today and can favorably differentiate an agency from the competition.
Gone are the days of the “agency of record,” but remember that the agency or client you take leave of today may re-emerge as a perfect partner later on.
For a more detailed look at how we arrived at this state of affairs, see Why the Client-Agency Bond Isn’t What It Used to Be.