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Three ways to build the strongest agency partnerships

Two parties walk into a room. All of the prior research and analysis that led to their selection suggests they should work well together. They have similar experiences. They have comparable goals. They should be a perfect match. But often, it just doesn’t go to plan. No I’m not talking about Married at First Sight (although what started as begrudgingly tuning in has led to me utterly compelled, I must admit…), I’m talking about the client-agency relationship process.

Selecting the right agency partner can be a challenging process. How do you know if they have the right experience? Do they understand your business, its challenges and objectives? Do they understand you and how you work best? Have they offered to float anything down the Thames as a creative? (It still might work in fairness, who am I to judge?) These are all genuinely important questions – except for the Thames example, obviously – and require a good amount of thought in order to provide accurate and actionable answers.

Invest time at the outset

So yes, investing time at the beginning of the agency selection process is key. If we compare it to seeing a doctor, the rationale behind this becomes incredibly clear. We wouldn’t visit our doctor and expect them to diagnose our ailment and prescribe the right medication without first questioning us about our symptoms.

Business challenges, especially in the enterprise space, often have a myriad of different factors, perspectives and nuances, so allowing the time for the agency to dig into those will be critical in enabling them to ‘prescribe’ the right course of treatment (I’ll stop now, sorry).

Be prepared to collaborate

The best agency-client relationships are collaborative partnerships, and in order to achieve this, you need to spend time getting to know each-other, and to provide the agency with the right opportunities to get under your business’ skin. This could be through connecting them to your technical or business leaders, who are building solutions or talking to customers, respectively, to enable the team to get a deeper understanding of the product roadmap or brand reputation among customers.

Such discussions, when combined with rigorous market research and insights, can have a profound impact on the direction of campaign planning – ensuring activity is directly linked to business challenges and objectives.

Ask about your team’s other clients

In my early agency years I was taught to make every client feel like they are your only client. I get why I was told that, but I must say – with a few more years under my belt – it’s a viewpoint I fundamentally disagree with. Our client mix and experience is a key part of what validates our positions, our thinking and our consultancy. I encourage clients to ask what other projects we’re working on, whether we’re tackling similar briefs and what learnings can be taken and incorporated.

Whether you’re rapidly expanding to new markets and territories and in need of awareness at speed or you’re an established player seeking a new level of foresight into the trends, issues and opportunities which will shape your industry, talking to teams about their experience outside of your business can be hugely beneficial.

What next?

Well, now you’ve read this, you’ll obviously be enjoying the most successful and fruitful agency partnership to date. But if you’re not, maybe let’s chat?

I definitely don’t have all the answers – and this most certainly isn’t an exhaustive list – so I’d love to hear more thoughts and ideas if you have them. Drop me a line!