How to get the most out of your agency

Agency management is an important skill for marketers. But it is more than just monitoring progress against deadlines.

Agencies come in all shapes and sizes, some offering a broad range of integrated services and some focusing on a particular specialism. As an in-house marketer, you may therefore find yourself working with more than one supplier to bring together all the support that you need.

I’ve worked on both sides of the client/agency relationship and have learnt some valuable lessons in both roles. Each one is challenging in its own way, and I’m grateful I’ve been able to see things from each side. The best client/agency relationships are ones based on trust, understanding and mutual respect. Here are a few key tips to help you get the most out of your agencies.

Briefing

The most important stage in any project is the initial briefing. This is your chance to provide the full scope of your requirements and create a shared understanding of the business drivers.

How do you make sure your brief is a good one?

  • Get buy-in from business stakeholders when creating your brief. Everyone needs to understand and agree the objectives.
  • Document your requirements — without a solid basis to start from, it is easy to lose sight of what you intended to deliver during the project lifetime.
  • Provide access to experts. This is particularly relevant if your offering is very technical. Your agency may have some experience in the field but will never be as knowledgeable as your internal team.
  • Be open to suggestion about the output. The best thing about working with an agency is the perspective offered by an external party. By keeping an open mind, you allow your agency to apply some of the creative thinking that you are paying them for.

Review and sign off

This may be a tricky part of the process, as you need to manage multiple stakeholders across the business, and it can take more time than anticipated.

How can you make the process run smoothly?

  • Explain the sign off process to your agency so they are kept in the loop and understand what you are dealing with. They will empathise.
  • Communicate regularly, even if there are delays. This means the agency is better placed to respond to your feedback as and when it is ready.
  • Ask for help selling-in to your stakeholders. Your agency wants to see the project succeed as much as you do, so they will be happy to provide material and visuals that can help you to get internal approval.
  • Give constructive feedback — have a look at our article about giving good feedback.
  • If the output is not what you expected, re-visit the brief with your agency. You will soon be able to steer them back on track.

The best agencies are the ones you can rely on to go the extra mile and ultimately make your life easier. Don’t be afraid to tell your agency what you need — open and honest communication helps the relationship to flourish. The end result will be testament to your collaboration.



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