How a strategic approach can improve your client-agency collaboration

Published April 29, 2021, 1:50 p.m. by Samir Akhmedov

How do you get the most out of your collaboration with an agency? This is a question that marketing and communications departments probably ask themselves several times a year. With good reason. An effective and long-lasting collaboration is characterized by a common understanding of the challenges to be bridged and goals to be achieved. But, how do you really do that?

The tips mentioned in this article might be a given for some, both on the customer and the agency side. If this is the case – great – then you’re doing it right!

But despite the fact that this seems to be obvious for most people, Regi’s agency report, which was produced in conjunction with Agency of the Year 2021, shows that 26 per cent of customers say that agencies need to be better at understanding their end customers. And 33 per cent state that they have not set any goals for their agency cooperation.

Clearly, there is good reason to talk about the following points again.

By drawing inspiration from strategy development models, it’s possible to address both of these problems relatively painlessly by adopting the following two steps.

External analysis
As anyone who has ever tried to develop a strategy knows, it is important to start by defining your current marketing position and examining your industry environment – an external analysis. Do you want your agency to have a deeper understanding of your end customers? A solid external analysis that charts stakeholders, behaviours and other factors, gives both your agency and yourself an understanding of the challenges your end customers face.

Be sure to set aside enough time for this step. Even if the agency’s planner doesn’t have to lift a finger because you’ve already created this analysis yourselves, it is still important that the agency takes the time to go through and understand the contents and thereby understand the world in which your end customers operate. Have a direct and open dialogue with your agency about how much time you both believe is needed to do thorough job at this stage.

Concrete goals
Forget your gut feeling! Even though it can in some situations be wise to follow your gut, in this case you should rather focus on concrete numbers. Since a third of customers have not set any goals for their agency cooperation it is reasonable to ask “why?” Setting goals does not have to be a time-consuming process if you have devised a structure for it.

Set KPIs
Sometimes there is some conceptual confusion where KPIs and goals are mixed up. Determining KPIs is simply a task of mapping which figures/indicators you agree to measure. Make sure you align your client-agency copperation KPIs with your overall marketing and business KPIs.

Set SMART goals
Once you have decided what to measure, it is time to actually start measuring it. Use the classic SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-related). This makes it clear both to you and the agency what is expected to be achieved.

Follow up
As a natural extension of the previous step, you must now determine:
How you will follow up on these goals
How often the goals should be followed up
Who is responsible for following them up
What the follow-ups should led too

If the above goals and follow-up methodologies are applied at the beginning of a new cooperation, you should see a good breeding ground for a long and successful relationship with your agency. Although it can be challenging to define goals for a partnership and many marketing departments today are already drowning in numbers and data, this will pay off in the end.

This will also help you as a customer to show internally what you have managed to achieve with the help of your agency. And who doesn’t want to stand in front of management and show exactly what successes have been reaped by adopting a strategic cooperation model?