July 27, 2011 ↘︎

how to make sure everyone is created equal in an agency relationship

Have you ever thought about how you’re different to your agency account team?  And I don’t just mean in a “they get to wear jeans to the office” kind of way either.

Do you think that you bring an element of expertise to your relationship that they don’t offer?

In the same way that internally within agencies each person has their own specific skill set which means they are called upon for opinion, I think the agency and client relationship needs to offer the same.

And largely, I don’t see that happening.

At the moment I think “the client” really only plays the role of critiquing an agencies work at the formal presentation stage rather than being a part of the creation process.

Do we enjoy the element of surprise (which can interchange between delight and disappointment) too much? Or do we feel overwhelmed by the expertise of our agency and we are too scared to voice our opinion?

If you employ an agency to help you communicate to your customers, then you and your internal team have a very important place in the exploration of any idea when answering a brief.
Let me be really clear here, I don’t mean you “demand” your place at the table, interfere and order everyone to bow to your greatness. No, an agency should be a worthy extension to your team so treat them as you treat your internal staff and value everyone’s skills in their own way.

Here is my list of “must-haves” in terms of client expertise which is written from the point of view of being a Marketing Manager / Online Marketer / Channel Manager etc.

  1. Personas:
    Know your own customers better than anyone else. Learn about them, create them and engage them. Bring that knowledge with you when you are briefing your agency because they won’t have the time or ability to get to know your customers as well as you do.
  2. Research:
    Commission it if you don’t have in-house expertise but own why you want to do the research and what you will use the findings for and then make sure you apply it across all of your thinking.
  3. High-level planning:
    Know which direction you want to take your digital strategy and which channels you want to explore and share it with your team so your agency aren’t having to second guess if you’ll want to hear a social media idea or not. Base that planning on your business objectives, your brand objective and your digital positioning (which should all be informed by #1).
  4. Content strategy:
    Hands up if you even have one of these? Mmmmmmmmm.
    If you don’t know what you have to talk about or what your customers might be interested in learning more about then who else will? #’s 1 & 2 inform this and again means you need to own it and live it.
  5. Measurement:
    Be completely in touch with what you are measuring, why you are doing it and what it means you’ll do next. Know exactly what your customers are (or aren’t) doing so you can refine it next time. This is a “whole-of” piece not just on a campaign basis and is a critical tool to have in your kit.
  6. Your sites architecture:
    Are you happy for campaign sites to be built separately to your main site or do you want everything to be integrated? Do you have a straight-forward process for how long your campaign will be the primary message before something replaces it? If you don’t you should.

Note; you don’t have to establish these things by yourself, your agency should help provide best practice advice if it’s needed, but once it’s agreed upon by your stakeholders and business, become an expert in it.

    If you are clear on what you want to do then it helps your agency to create a idea which is less about guess work and more informed, which, in turn, makes it easier for you to get internal approval from your stakeholders. Win-win and no crushing disappointment or hurt egos.
The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on July 27, 2011.
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