Having played in the Agency-Client Relationship space now for the past 5 years, I’ve seen it all. We work with 42 different agencies across the nation and talk to 1000’s every month. I’ve seen agency principals sing the praises of great client relationships and have seen agency principals decry the nasty client who treats them like sh&*@. While without a doubt this is a two way street – which I’ll speak to the agency side later, a good agency relationship starts with the client.
The Agency-Client relationship can be made most productive if you start by treating your agency partner – like a partner. Know that they have value that they can add and I’m 100% certain that if you look for them to bring THINKING value to the relationship (and not just execution value to the relationship), they will be so much happier and will deliver even better across all areas of the relationship.
Bring them into early-on discussions of strategy and planning…see what they can deliver for you. Let them deliver thinking (and not just “work”). Most agencies have smart, tenured people working in their firms that have seen a lot (just like we’ve seen a lot of good and bad agencies). Give them a chance and if they can deliver, you’ll be thrilled with the fact that the relationship has blossomed into so much more.
Obviously the success of this is all dependent on the agency. You get a crappy account person and all the love is lost. You get an agency that starts strong, then is on to the next new client, and the value is diminished. No reason why an agency shouldn’t be able to do what we’re talking about here – if they’re worth their weight. If you’re not getting it…look elsewhere. There are plenty of agencies out there that can dial up the game to a level that will make it a “win” for you and your brand.