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'We’re better together'; Building value into the client/agency relationship

By Mette Davis, Founder

ouragencyvalue

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The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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August 2, 2019 | 5 min read

In July, I had the pleasure of chairing the Drum’s South West event at Edit’s offices in Bath. The topic up for discussion was how we could build collective value into our Client/Agency relationships. And what better way to do that than to invite experienced client-side marketers to share their views with agencies, before working together in teams to solve key challenges?

OurAgencyValue reflect on the key takeaways from chairing The Drum's South West event last month, ahead of their next event in September.

OurAgencyValue reflect on the key takeaways from chairing The Drum's South West event last month, ahead of their next event.

After Shaun Cooper from OurAgencyValue gave us an overview of the AAR’s latest report on client/agency models, I asked each of our client representatives to share a specific challenge they faced, and what they needed from their agencies as a result.

Laura McGowan, group acquisition content manager at Barratt Developments, talked about the challenge of managing multi-agency relationships and the desire to get everyone to feel like they are genuinely ‘in it together’. There is a need to build collective trust and respect for each other’s experience and specialist skills to help problem-solve together which can be easier said than done.

Steve Edwards, CMO for UN Women, shared a challenge around working for a charity which is effectively operating as a start up in the UK, and the desire of agencies to help the cause, but that sometimes their goals and those of the agencies weren’t always truly aligned. He talked about the need for shared goals, shared metrics and agreement up front on remuneration models.

Richard Price, ex-head of marketing for Brittany Ferries, talked about the need to balance delivering on short term objectives and sales targets, with the longer-term strategy. If you don’t deliver on the short term, there is no longer-term strategy.

Nada Matti-Leighton, head of strategic marketing & brand at Sawdays and Canopy & Stars, talked about the challenge of delivering true creative value without big marketing budgets. Many agencies want to work with the brand, but in reality, struggle to deliver consistently great creative thinking with limited resources and budgets.

Following the panel discussion and some observations from our agency participants, we split into four break-out groups facilitated by folks from Edit, Firehaus and OurAgencyValue to discuss the challenges further. Each group then shared their potential solutions with the larger group at the end.

There were five consistent take-aways:

  1. Be honest. And stop the bullsh*t. Transparency builds trust and more rewarding relationships. Agencies, be honest about the services you can credibly provide and realistic about what you can deliver when, and don’t be afraid to say no when there’s something you can’t do. Clients, be honest about budgets, objectives and expectations. Agree shared goals, ways of working and remuneration models up front together.
  2. Get to know your client’s businessand their customers. Developing a true understanding of the business and customers will set you in great stead for a long-term, rewarding partnership. This includes understanding how your clients are incentivised, as well as the needs and behaviours of customers - giving agencies a better chance of developing effective work that delivers results on business objectives.
  3. Celebrate success and acknowledge where you can do better next time. Hold regular all agency get-togethers to celebrate great work and reward ‘good’ collaboration. Take time to learn from the good (and bad) practices and experiences that led to the success of the project. Reward the behaviour you seek and work together to make improvements where needed.
  4. Take calculated risk and be open to sharing it. It’s easy for agencies to advocate bravery for clients when the risk is all one-sided. Start by taking risks on smaller projects to demonstrate the value of creativity, and consider sharing that risk (and reward) to increase the sense that you are genuinely all in it together.
  5. Accept and embrace change as a team. In a world of uncertainty, we all need to be more flexible, ready to change direction or adapt plans at short notice if it means achieving our collective goals. But again, ensure it’s calculated, not just a knee-jerk reaction based on gut instinct without insight.

In summary, we’re better together. Our mixed client/agency teams worked effortlessly together, there were no egos and there was a genuine desire to come up with workable solutions, solutions that probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone. We just sometimes get so caught up in our own worlds that we forget why we got into this vibrant industry in the first place!

Our next session is on Wednesday, September 11th in Bristol, when we’ll be exploring different commercial models. We’ll discuss the benefits and pitfalls of each, before workshopping how to approach them with practical examples. Book your place here.

Mette Davis, co-founder of OurAgencyValue.

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