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Are you getting the most from your agency partnership?

Keith Flint

Strategy Director

Five steps to mutual satisfaction.


Think about your most successful relationship. What makes it work?

Sure, it might have begun with the right chemistry. A little spark.

But what keeps it fulfilling and sustainable?

Trust. Openness. Communication.

Your agency relationship depends on these elements, too. Here’s how to ensure your agency partnership thrives.

First, acknowledge that you are in this together. You’re reliant on one another to contribute fully to the partnership.

That means you have to start with an agreement. You need to set reasonable expectations. You agree to work together. To share. And to be honest.

Here are steps to establish that agreement, to set those expectations, and to collaborate effectively:

1. Communicate the purpose and intent

Let your agency know what you’re trying to accomplish upfront. Don’t just ask for help creating a specific tactical piece. Explain your intent. Let your agency partner know what problems you’re trying to solve.

If you are looking for a brochure, that’s what you’ll get. But if you approach problem solving together, with the intent in mind, a good agency will offer a host of possible solutions.

2. Share openly

What internal or external pressures are motivating the action you’re taking? Tell your agency. That way they can help you by keeping all your challenges in mind as they seek solutions. Too often, these pressures or restrictions don’t emerge until after the first round of suggestions has been presented. If your agency is well informed upfront, they won’t waste your time or resources proposing solutions that you know right away aren’t feasible. Is there an upcoming event? A critical customer presentation? Just let them know and they’ll strive to hit that mark.

3. Don’t always expect a “Yes”

To serve clients best, your agency partner sometimes needs to listen through what you request to identify what you truly need. Careful prodding helps. So please understand that if they ask “why?” they’re not trying to be difficult. They’re trying to understand better, so they can deliver the best solution.

They underserve you, and themselves, by passively recording a request, and saying “yes” without careful consideration. Instead, by taking a more active role and being careful listeners, your agency can sometimes determine better solutions.

4. Know that they’d rather address your customers’ needs than trumpet your solution

When your agency focuses on customers’ needs over product features, they can create more compelling content. Positioning your offering as the solution to one of your customer’s greatest challenges resonates with customers and ultimately serves you better.

Theodore Levitt, Economist and Professor at Harvard Business School, made this point: “People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

Work with your agency to uncover the benefit you offer your customers. Then work together to assure your audience that you can deliver it.

5. Share results so your agency partner can produce even better work

Your agency is as eager to show a campaign’s effectiveness as you are to demonstrate your return on investment. No matter what analytics you’re applying to your marketing efforts, the reported results will guide your agency’s efforts and inform their decisions. Receiving feedback is an important part of their process. And constant feedback through the process is even better. Evaluation drives them to revisit and revise. Knowing what works—and what doesn’t—is the best way to improve marketing effectiveness. So, if you’re collecting information on customer engagement, share it with your agency so they can respond appropriately.