I was on the phone with a reporter from Adweek yesterday and he was telling me about a new tactic that the SRI’s and Pile’s of the world are using during agency searches to help Marketers get a sense of how well they will like an agency involved in a search – and how well they believe their relationship with an agency will be strong and sustainable.

I agree with one thing – agency-client relationships are important.

What I disagree with is their tactic: having an agency create a video to “introduce” the Marketer to the agency team.

Ask yourself this…how many agency videos have you seen that haven’t been super flashy, super exciting, full of chest pounding high-energy music – videos that make you feel like you want to dump the boring corporate life for the fun-filled life of an agency employee?  My guess is few…if any.

Personally, I think these agency search firms are focused on the wrong thing.

Our sister company, RSW/US has been conducting surveys among Marketers for the past 5 years – and the #1 reason Marketers consistently drop their current agency isn’t “personality” or troubled relationship, it’s lack of strategic thinking and lack of pro-activity.

Forget the video…let’s try and dig a bit deeper in the early phases of a search and see how these agencies think…how strategic they are.  How about starting with the RFI.  Let’s not just ask them for facts…let’s ask them how they might react to specific situations.  Let’s start early in evaluating their thinking.

And let’s not get all the agencies together in a single conference call for a mass Q&A – where no one will be willing to ask the tough questions – let’s get them one-on-one in a Q&A/Chemistry call and see what kind of questions they ask and how enthusiastic they are about the prospect of working with you.

In the end, the strength of the relationship matters…but what’s more important is how well the agency thinks, how strategically they operate, and how well they lead you…so you don’t have to lead them.  If these all line up…the relationship will be outstanding.

SRI…Pile…re-think your tactics…and think about it more strategically…and in a more balanced fashion

In the end, strong agency-client relationships aren’t built on “shows”.  Anybody can create a great show.  Strong agency-client relationships are built on solid strategic thinking and strong marketing and creative leadership.

Look a little bit deeper.  I assure you, you’ll find a better firm – and a longer lasting agency-client relationship.