There are some basic principles that always play predictably among consumers.

  1. Consumers never like to be told how they should feel.
  2. Consumers like it when products make it easier and save time.
  3. Consumers like choices.  They feel like they are in control.

It is this last principle that is at the heart of every successful agency-client relationship.

Self-Determination Theory:  A Social Psychological Theory that helps explain active engagement and psychological growth.

It was created by Professors Deci and Ryan at the University of Rochester and refined/elaborated by many other scholars across the globe.


The basic principle of the Self-Determination Theory is this:

There is a fundamental need that is basic to human motivation to engage in actions with a FULL SENSE OF CHOICE.

While not directly built to explain how agency-client relationships work, I personally believe that this theory is at the core of how successful relationships are developed and sustained…and how they are started.

In past posts, I spoke about this theory in the context of how marketers need to give their agencies choices to make them feel in control, which better motivates them, and leads to a greater commitment to moving your business forward.  All true and something you need to do.

I recently completed an interview with Tim Williams, a leading agency consultant, who spoke on the topic of choice as it relates to agencies and how they present themselves to marketers when trying to engage them in a relationship.

Tim basically tells agencies that the more creative they can be in how they price and present value when trying to win your heart and the more choices they can give you, the more likely you will find favor in agency and want to work with them.

So think about the next proposal you are handed.  Does the agency offer a one-dimensional approach to solving your problem or do they offer creative ideas and different values – to afford you the ability to choose and control how you move forward with the agency?

Good agencies will be just as creative in how they present their proposal of options to you – and the pricing considerations for those options – as they are in marketing your business.


Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.