7 Tips for Making the Most of Your Agency Partnership

Employing an agency partner is often a meaningful investment for your company. And making the most of that investment has major implications for a brand’s performance on the market; a true strategic and creative partnership can put you in the lead within your industry, versus your competition, and amongst your customers. (Plus, when it’s gone well, justifying the allocation of funds in an annual budget review becomes that much easier.)

But how do you go from a mere vendor relationship to a true partnership? In my nearly two decades working in agencies, I’ve made a few observations about ways the client-agency relationship can be at its most harmonious.

Here, seven tips for better managing your agency relationships and squeezing the most value from your investment.

1. Trust them.

Once you’ve found the right agency partner, you need to build a trusting rapport by investing not only time, but confidence. Treat them as an extension of your internal team by being upfront about key KPIs, budgets and challenges, and let that faith in your agency work to your advantage. When an agency is a true partner, rather than just a vendor, you empower them to make smarter recommendations for your business.

2. Get uncomfortable.

Choose an agency that knows your industry inside and out, then leverage that expertise to challenge your own thinking. It’s easy for an established business to get stuck in its ways over time. Getting insights from an informed outsider is an important way to stay ahead of the curve. If you’re not slightly uncomfortable, they may not be challenging you enough.

3. Be responsive, especially when it’s urgent for your company.

Few things are more disheartening to an agency than jumping through hoops to meet a crazy deadline, only to be met by crickets when it’s time for feedback. If you want an agency to give top priority to a project, plan to respond to them with the same level of urgency you ask of them. You’ll build a stronger working relationship and get the project over the finish line and out to the market, together.

4. Employ regular status calls with your agency.

If you don’t have one of these, request one. No one wants to add unnecessary meetings to their day, but regular check-ins are worth your time to keep momentum going and ensure everyone stays aligned.

5. Consolidate your team’s feedback.

It often takes multiple stakeholders to provide input on a project. And while it’s helpful to see the various internal points of view on your team, eliminating the guesswork by including clear direction from one point person helps you get the most for your money. So that PDF that has to be passed around to ten individuals across three departments? Allow it to fully make the rounds, consolidate all the comments and direction in one doc, and watch your road to completion become much more streamlined.

6. Make sure your agency is in the loop on your various partnerships. If you have the right agencies, they know how to work together for the client’s success.

When strategy and marketing work happens in a silo, it can hinder the effectiveness of the final product or fail to fully leverage the partners’ work and your investments. By informing your partners of all the aspects of your marketing and branding work, they can strategize collectively to ensure they optimize your investments, and ultimately your business success.

7. Use fire drills sparingly.

Good work takes time—that's true of nearly any kind of project, but it’s especially true of marketing and branding work. Respecting the strategy and creative process (and the fine balance between budget, deadlines and quality) builds a strong relationship and gets the best results. It also helps ensure that in those rare instances when you do need to ask your agency to move mountains (and quickly!), they’re far more willing and able to oblige. (In that instance, be extra keen on responding with any required action or feedback on your side as well.)

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