8 Tips to Keep the Spark in Your Agency Relationships

A favorite client told me during a recent phone call that she wanted to share her organization’s internal plans with my team here at Content4Demand:  nurture plans, content plans, annual budgets — the works.

“I want you to see everything we’re working on, because I know you’ll be able to help us improve on our ideas,” she said. She doesn’t consider us as just a vendor; we’re an extension of her company’s marketing team.

Do you look at your agency and consultancy partners in the same light? You might think it was risky of her to share sensitive information with an outside consultancy, but there are solid reasons for you to follow suit and strengthen relationships with your marketing partners. Doing so could lead to a number of benefits, including streamlined campaign planning and execution, and better marketing results.

Here are 8 tips to help you take your marketing-agency relationships to the next level:

Invite Us to Your Meetings

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The client I just mentioned invited our team to her enterprise’s annual marketing meeting, where we were privy to their grand plans for next year. Smart thinking. When we have the opportunity to get to know the players — everyone from sales reps to the C-Suite — we gain a better understanding of every department’s goals and each stakeholder’s concerns. That helps us solve problems that you may not even think to mention. Often, we can bring a fresh, objective perspective to help address the challenges your team wrestles with internally.

Set (and Share) Your Expectations

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You’re far more likely to love your campaign if you’ve discussed expectations at the outset. Tell your agency what you love and what you don’t. Be clear about schedules and deadlines. Warn us if our campaigns will need to go through stringent legal, marcom and stakeholder review processes or that you simply hate the color orange. Share branding and style guidelines if you have them. Define success.

Show Us the Money

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Clients are often cagey about their total budgets, no doubt worrying that we’ll try to spend every penny. I won’t tell you that we don’t want more of your budget than we’re getting; of course we do. But we’re not asking for your ATM pin. It’s our job to help you make the most of every dollar you’re spending. We do it best when we can align your goals with your total spend to leverage the most impactful strategies.

Be Yourself

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Take a couple of minutes every once in a while to tell us about the great party you crashed on Friday night or the adorable thing your toddler did at breakfast yesterday. It’s human nature that we all work harder for people we like. And it’s easier to communicate with you and do great work for you when we know you.

Take Our Recommendations to Heart

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In reality, few of us are Don Drapers, defending the integrity of our brilliant creative at all costs. More often, if your agency disagrees with you, it’s because they’re trying to protect your best interests and guide you to follow the industry best practices that they’re completely immersed in — the expertise you hired them for. It’s always worth a conversation to talk through the strategy. They may be able to share expertise that they’ve learned from working with other clients that helps you see their point, or they may learn something important about you and your company that changes their recommendation.

Focus On Results

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You can spend six months polishing a white paper to perfection, or you can collaborate more quickly on a really solid one that gets published and engages your target customers right now. The cost of agonizing over every single word and image — while your competitors are getting their marketing materials in buyers’ hands — is rarely worth it.

Don’t Ghost Your Partner

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You hate the creative. Your budget got yanked. Your priorities have shifted to another project. Whatever the bad news, look us in the eye (or just return our calls). We can take it.

Crack the Champagne

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Marketing is hard work, both for you and for your agency. Endless edits, changing gears on a dime, tough deadlines and adjusting copy and design until they’re just right for launch. When we succeed, we do it together. Take a moment to exchange high-fives and celebrate before we get down to business on the next campaign.

These 8 tips and best practices can help you build a great foundation for a strong marketing relationship. After all, we’re in this together.

Do you have any stories about great or not-so-great experiences with agencies? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!