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How to bounce back: Improving resilience in business relationships

by Kim Walker

October 13, 2022

Given that the last decade has encompassed global crises (including the Covid pandemic) and the ‘always on’ nature of digital media and increased competition - which mean companies have to respond faster - it is perhaps unsurprising that marketers and their agencies have been forced to rise to the challenge and demonstrate greater resilience.

Our data, drawn from our global database of more than 25,000 client-agency evaluations over the last 20 years, shows scores for resilience have leaped by 9% over the last decade.

Ten years ago, our data showed resilience as a quality was one of the lowest-scoring attributes of marketers and agencies. The other behaviors we study and measure are: accountability, challenge, communication, functional, goals and trust.

This demonstrates agencies and clients alike have become better able to respond to crises, in the eyes of their marketing partners. But there are still opportunities to improve this business-critical attribute.

For agencies in particular, improving resilience scores is one of the greatest overall areas through which they can boost relationships with their clients.

What is resilience?

Rapid response to crises has always been a defining trait of the marketing and communications industry.

To be truly resilient, businesses must be able to adapt to disruptions whilst maintaining continuous business operations and safeguarding people, assets and overall brand equity.

At organisational level, this could encompass McKinsey’s six dimensions of resilience: institutional, financial, operational, technological, organizational and reputational.

For marketers and their agencies, this can be translated as being prepared with tactical responses to competitive threats, or anticipating a market reaction.

Team leaders however need to be mindful that the need for resilience and an ‘always on’ culture can be at odds with the welfare and mental health of teams and individuals.

This calls for preparation, planning and a resilient mindset among team members.

When it comes to individuals, academic studies demonstrate the mutually enhancing relationship between resilience and positive mental health in the short term, meaning leaders who expect resilience from their team need to encourage and support the physical and mental health of team members.

The importance of resilience

Our data shows that for marketing clients, resilience is the third most important behaviour for lower scoring clients behind communication and functional (ability to do the job).

And for agencies, resilience is even more critical, ranking second only to functional among low performing agencies.

These scores are not surprising, given that speed and flexibility are both vital qualities of resilience and often demanded by clients of all service providers, including agencies.

How to improve resilience

For agencies:

1. Be engaged and passionate, and show commitment to the client’s business.

2. Demonstrate initiative to anticipate the client’s needs and manage their expectations.

3. Be prepared to evolve plans quickly in response to a changing market.

4. Constantly review internal processes to make sure the agency is best optimised for the times.

5. Manage resources efficiently to ensure sufficient depth and quality of staff to work with the client team.

For clients:

1. Promote agency participation in planning discussions both internally and with other agencies.

2. Provide regular and timely information about the market, business and sales situation.

3. Give thorough, accurate and timely responses to agency requests.

4. Communicate any changes to project scope and client team quickly and clearly.

5. Manage internal approval procedures effectively, including early senior management buy-in and direction.


client-agency relationships
Agency Business
client-agency evaluations
business relationships