6 Things to Consider for the Client-Agency Relationship in 2016

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By Michele Weisman

In an industry that recognizes the importance of quick communication and clear goals, the idea of conducting an agency performance evaluation can be met with a, "Why do we need to do this?" Clients are busy, and if they have a healthy relationship with their agencies, it’s often at the bottom of their to-do list.

However, I spoke with a dozen brand marketers at various management levels, ranging from Coordinator to Chief Marketing Officer. Despite the different years of industry experience, they agreed on six common themes that clients and agencies should account for when thinking about their relationship in 2016.

Use this as a checklist when evaluating your current client-agency partnerships. Are you doing all you can to help your clients?

1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Be Willing to Collaborate and Listen

When pitching clients, agencies should avoid fitting a square peg into a round hole. Take interest in the client’s challenges and customers by providing framework, guidance and a strong overall strategy.

A clear understanding of the client’s return objective is key. Social media has proven a tough thing to wrangle in terms of objectives. Agencies that understand the goals of a program are set up for success more than agencies that don’t. Partnerships are most successful when the relationship benefits the client and the agency.

2. Thoughtfulness Does Not Go Unnoticed

Agencies that think like brand marketers and go the extra step to bring additional ideas to the table are agencies that stand out. Agencies that create content that isn’t super polished but rather relevant, micro and meaningful are agencies adapting to the new media-consumption model. Agencies that make the investment, upfront, of learning the brand inside-out — of becoming familiar with the key players at the organization — are agencies that truly become extensions of their clients’ marketing teams.

3. Think Big But Realistic

More often that not, agencies’ budget proposals are too big and don't match the dream. Figure out ways to reach for the stars with ideas that are important and realistic. The key is good creative, especially for brands, organizations and nonprofits with small budgets. Agencies should price accordingly but shouldn’t live and breathe by hourly billing. Commit to doing great work within reason.

4. Real-Time Rapid Response is No Longer a Wish But a Requirement

Today’s world requires fast, instantaneous solutions, and that runs counter the best custom ideas. Content needs to be customized, but the challenge is accounting for time — crafting ideas and then vetting for approvals. Brands rely on agencies to be trendspotters and think “what’s next?” Agencies, in turn, need to stay ahead of the curve. One idea to consider: presenting a monthly snapshot of social media trends to clients.

5. Introduce Current Clients to Prospective Clients

Prospective clients often ask for references. Have current clients talk to them and give perspective on the current agency relationship. It’s more genuine to have two clients talk together. The feedback goes a long way for prospective clients.

6. Bring Clients Their Next Big Idea

Clients are paying agencies a hefty sum of money for concepts. More often than not, agencies provide solutions that are safe and expected. Agencies don’t get fired for typical, predictable strategies; they might get fired for something bold and daring.

But the true value of having an agency partner is making the brand feel uncomfortable in a good way. It’s challenging them to think outside the box. Agencies should encourage account managers to share risky, off-the-chart concepts with clients. Bring them their next big idea!

As you can see, brand marketers are asking for a different type of agency partnership than in the past. Agencies, isn’t it time to give them what they want?

What are your thoughts on the client-agency relationship for 2016? Feel free to tweet me your thoughts to @ottogrl!