Part Two: How To Get Your Agency To Outperform for You
So we know that getting your agency to love you is a wonderful thing bringing countless benefits, among them a happier life, an all-conquering brand, and hero status. For at BB&P there are clients (you know who you are) whose mere name invoke misty-eyed reminiscences and collective lumps in throats.
Surprising as it may seem, giving your agency an infinite budget, an open deadline, blindly approving every stinker they pitch and flying them on your G5 to Cannes won’t do it.
To be inducted into The BB&P Client Hall of Fame you need the seven special qualities identified by our highly experienced team:
Typically, a good agency will only engage with one client in any particular business category. In giving you their loyalty, the agency is making a considerable investment, and possibly passing up other significant opportunities. Be sure to reward their loyalty with your own. A client that drops their agency in it the moment the campaign hits an air pocket is a client to jettison. Worse, ‘sleeping around’ with other agencies is the ultimate form of client disloyalty and one that invariably leads to a messy client/agency divorce.
An agency’s ability to prosper, to survive, is based on being able to complete projects profitably – and that always means within the allotted time. Project over-runs quickly push an agency into the danger zone. Be the client that delivers a crystal clear agency brief – one that includes a reasonable deadline, defined objectives, comprehensive background info and, not least, an appropriate budget. A sketchy client who holds key information back or hasn’t aligned their colleagues and business plan will surely deplete the project resources and the agency’s interest. Agencies respond particularly well to savvy clients who understand how the advertising process works, what makes an agency tick, and what the the accepted industry etiquettes are.
If your agency’s not sitting at high management table in your business and participating in the key internal discussions that impact the brand, then the relationship isn’t what it could be. In fact, if you can’t imagine your agency ever being invited to the table, then you’re with the wrong agency. Remember, the agency is your consumer’s advocate – the objectivity they bring to the heart of your brand decision-making is priceless. You’d be amazed what dividends that level of trust can yield.
Patience, within reason. Creative problem solving requires a gestation period and if your agency is constantly in panic mode they can only give birth to malformed campaigns. Setting the expectations clearly via the agency brief, and then stepping back to allow proper reflection, exploration and testing always produces better work. But remember, too, that agencies always work best with deadlines.
Once you’ve agreed on your agency brief, and on the agency’s responding creative brief, stick to them. Discipline through the campaign development phase prevents project creep and less than favourable outcomes. Equally, you can help the process and the relationship, by being responsive, enthusiastic and collaborative. In fact, the ultimate test of the relationship is whether the agency would be happy with you sitting in on a creative brainstorm as an expert advisor (similar to them being invited to your internal planning meeting). We’ve done this in the past with particularly enlightened clients and the results have been stellar.
Creating great advertising is an intensely collaborative process. When your agency unveils their ideas, it’s the combined output of a team of experienced professionals. Afford them respect for their particular expertise; after all, isn’t that why you hired them in the beginning?
Time, praise, business referrals, rum – ply your agency with these in good measure and your place in the Hall of Fame is all but sealed – providing you’ve scored well on the other six qualities.
The headline of this piece could equally have been “How To Get Your Client To Outperform For You”. The truth is that these seven qualities should be shared by both client and agency. And while they might not instantly make you a savvy client, they should help you get more out of your agency than you’re getting now.