8 Top Tips to Get More Out of Your Agency Relationships

Welcome to our new blog series focusing on keeping the marketing show on the road despite budget cuts.

In this series we will delve into topics like driving marketing ROI, reducing marketing wastage, low-cost marketing tactics, and reviewing the cost implications of in-house resource versus outsourcing. For our second instalment of this blog series we’re focusing on how you can get the most from your agency support, so here are our top tips:

  1. Make sure you have the right agency support to suit your latest needs

Even before COVID, the marketing landscape was changing, and you may have seen a shift towards hiring some skills that traditionally sat in agencies, like designers, in-house. This kind of in-housing was becoming commonplace, shifting the traditional requirements from your agency partners. Now, maybe as a result of COVID, other things have changed too, for example, have your needs become more agile? Has your marketing mix shifted away from paid advertising as a result of budget cuts? Is there pressure to reduce the marketing team headcount?

When things change it’s essential to keep reviewing your agency support so that you’re not pushing your agencies to offer you things that don’t play to their strengths or ensuring you check that they are still a commercially viable model that will provide you with the right support. Often agency relationships breakdown because something has changed in the relationship that impacts the appetite and it may be easier to have an open conversation sooner rather than later when frustrations can set in on both sides. Equally, you may be able to save yourself a lot of time if you rearrange things and get the support you need sooner.


  1. Keep your agencies in the loop with the latest challenges and insight

A lot has changed in the last four months and much as it’s hard work, keeping your agencies in the loop is critical. They’re not mind readers so they might not be able to predict the impact of COVID on all the various elements of your business. Keep sharing as much information about your business as possible, project goals, company insight, and importantly, the broader business strategy. Agencies that can truly immerse themselves in understanding the bigger picture are better equipped to deliver superior results than those with limited information. More importantly, if you are facing particular challenges or opportunities within your business, your agency may have the experience from other clients in their portfolio to help offer expert advice on how to overcome or navigate them.


  1. Agree, goals, roles and realistic expectations

There’s always much talk about the importance of a good brief, but what’s as key as the brief is also agreeing on a realistic view of what ‘success’ looks like and who has to do what to achieve it. Make sure you’re having open discussions of what you expect your agencies to deliver but equally be clear about what you’re responsible for on the client-side and how you’re both going to hold each other to account amicably. 

  1. Set clear objectives that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) and include the key project priorities and timelines. This will enable all stakeholders on both sides of the relationship to remain on track and to measure and evaluate success.
  2. Outline an overall budget to work within, including an acceptable contingency.
  3. Confirm a single-minded proposition for your company, product or service. It can act as an invaluable ignition for creativity and a solid guide for all stakeholders. If you are struggling to identify it, work with your agency to define it before the project starts.
  4. Be honest about any limitations or requirements upfront to ensure they are considered throughout the work.
  5. Identify key stakeholders and share any known likes or dislikes, coupled with references to any inspiration that formed your brief. This can help guide your agency in developing ideas that will work for you.


  1. Embrace honesty and openness throughout

From honesty about budgets to giving difficult feedback, it saves everyone a lot of time and reduces frustration if you can get beyond the politeness and become true partners with your agencies.  

With a clear idea on budget restrictions for a campaign or project from the start, agencies can help bring you realistic ideas within budget, without getting you excited only to find you don’t have the funds. Equally, if there are creative restrictions or the appetite for innovation further up the chain is limited, be honest from the outset. It won’t stop your agencies from sharing creative and innovative solutions, but they’ll be realistic in their expectations instead of getting frustrated by politics later down the line when a great idea gets shelved. 


  1. Communicate

‘Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity’ (Nat Turner). 

Communication can make or break a project.  

Ensure your agency has been clear about project scope right from the start, so you don’t fall into the murky waters of ‘scope creep’ and additional costs. Then, agree on the most effective communication methods and intervals to suit you and your team, while still giving the agency the chance to get the answers they need to progress. The most effective client-agency relationships feel more like partnerships, and good communication is key to developing this. Whether it’s quick WhatsApp messages, daily calls or weekly status updates, agree a realistic way of communicating and if you get distracted by other projects give the agency a heads up as to why you’re radio silent, so they leave you alone and step back. 


  1. Efficient & Effective Feedback

Consolidating feedback from several key stakeholders into a single round of amends is an easy way to make savings (it is often the amends that cause costs to spiral). Similarly, giving ultimate decision-makers clear and regular visibility of a project could potentially avoid costly changes mid-way through. If the day-to-day stakeholders are not empowered to make decisions, putting in place a process that enables decision-makers to regularly ‘check-in’ on work in progress can prevent projects going off-piste.


  1. Help sweat your assets

Brief your agency to create assets that are versatile so they can be edited and recycled across different channels or campaign segments. For instance, a video can be cut down and reused as stills, gifs or a shorter edit without the need for vast additional investment. 

Outside of campaigns, think about planning some “evergreen” content that can be used at any time and consider what assets you have access to internally that you can re-purpose. Customer reviews or employee quotes, for example, can make excellent social content to build your brand reputation. 


  1. Optimise your team

Identify what your agency’s key strengths are and look at the talent you have within your own organisation. Use your own team’s strengths as much as possible and understand how your agency can best add value to your business. If you use multiple agencies, don’t be afraid to bring them together to collaborate. You are the greatest influence on how well your agencies work with each other – if you communicate the clear strengths, roles, and responsibilities of each agency, they’ll find it easier to pull in the same direction. The result? You’ll win overall!

If you’re looking to review your agency partners post COVID or would like a no-obligation chat about how Something Big might be able to help support you, let’s talk!