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Too few senior marketers are feeling the love for their primary agency

Clients expect agency partners to deliver innovative ideas, attentive account management, and high-quality execution. A majority of marketing leaders agree that many agencies fall short.

As a matchmaker for brands and marketing agencies, we’re in a unique position to understand the dynamics of these relationships. To deepen that understanding, we surveyed more than 175 senior marketers from established brands (including American Cancer Society, eBay, Evernote, Delta Air Lines, Mazda, Red Bull, and REI) to gain insight into how brands are spending, finding agencies, and evaluating their agency relationships.

Spoiler alert: Two thirds of clients polled are not happy with their agency partners. Here are three insights from the study agencies can use to turn that around.

Spending Trends:

Clients are pulling money from their largest budget priorities — such as digital media, branding and creative, content, social media, and SEO — and shifting portions of those budgets into growing areas that include video, mobile, AR/VR, and experiential. Agencies that invest in emerging marketing trends so they’re poised to provide services in line with their clients’ changing preferences will win.

Agency Selection:

Establishing chemistry, demonstrating creativity, outlining experience and capabilities, and maintaining professionalism are crucial when trying to woo a new client. Clients are less concerned about the size of the agency, its awards/recognition, its physical proximity, or the seniority of the team than they are its actual capabilities and the chemistry between the teams.

Agencies that take the time to build real rapport with clients will have a distinct advantage. Clients want to work with agencies they like.

Agency Relationships:

Sixty percent of the responding marketers work with two to four marketing agencies, and another 30 percent working with five or more agencies. When asked to rate the overall performance of their primary agency using the Net Promoter Score scale, 31% rated them a 9-10 (promoters), 43% rated them a 7-8 (passives), and 25% rated them a 0-6 (detractors).

Frankly, getting a passive rating does not bode well for agencies. Clients who don’t love and trust their agency are bound to make a change. Marketers polled were mostly satisfied or very satisfied with their agency’s collaboration, responsiveness, execution, and project management, but they were less satisfied with their agency’s value, innovativeness, creativity, and focus on data. Clearly, agencies that excel in the latter areas will be most likely to retain accounts.

Those aren’t the only areas that agencies need to improve. Clients are annoyed by frequent change orders and lack of senior talent involved in their accounts. Agencies that want to grow would be wise to establish clear expectations and regular communication cadence.

Below are other key results from the 2018 AgencySparks Marketing Relationship Survey. The full survey results are here.

Joe Koufman is founder and chief executive officer of AgencySparks

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