As the owner of LoSasso Integrated Marketing, an advertising agency in Chicago, I can understand the difficult job marketing executives face today. Business demands are high, and the pace of change adds complexity and pressure. On top of this, you have to deal with countless agencies throwing themselves at you—promising better creative, higher ROI and a plethora of strategies to navigate the modern marketing landscape. Finding the right agency can make a huge difference. It should be the partner that keeps you evolving constantly and improving your ability to demonstrate the return on your efforts.
And no matter how well you choose, onboarding a new agency is a lot of work; but the rewards can be great. I have seen firsthand how a successful client-agency relationship offers a strategic advantage that helps protect and grow market share.
Over the 25 years I have been in the agency business, I have experienced some excellent client relationships as well as some that didn’t work out so well. We have worked with quite a variety of companies with regard to size and type, but also in what they need from us as their agency.
The common thread among the best relationships is the way we work together. The strong relationships share a mutual objective of leveraging the talents on both sides to build a team that can successfully support the client’s goals. Working with true collaboration and transparency is the key. Nobody has all of the answers and they are not supposed to. Marketing is evolving rapidly and the insights that enable great work come from clients and agencies collaborating towards a common goal.
One of the most common barriers to transparent collaboration is budgeting. Some clients don’t want to share their budgets and some agencies don’t want to share how they charge. This is counterproductive on all sides. Clients deserve to know what they are paying for, and agencies need to know how much revenue they can earn to build the right support team. The goal should be to establish a common view of the compensation arrangement and keep the energy focused on the work.
Clients should interview agencies as they would a high-level employee. This includes an honest and open dialog about compensation, and a thorough evaluation of talent and capabilities. Today more than ever, vetting the agency’s true capabilities is critical, because we as agencies need a much more varied skillset than we needed a few years back. Many agencies outsource a lot of integrated components and are therefore a lot less agile – performance can suffer greatly when campaigns are executed using specialists from several different companies. If you are evaluating an agency, visit the office and be sure that you are satisfied that it has the resources and capabilities to deliver what you need.
A size match is also very important – big enough to meet your needs but small enough that you are an important client. Beyond that, it is critical to explore how thinking and work styles align. This is your first opportunity to collaborate transparently with an agency and see how it feels. If you can be clear about what you need from your agency and what resources they will have to work with, a good agency should give you tremendous confidence about what they will do and how they will do it. (We have a budgeting tool that might be helpful to you if you are going through this process – click here to download it and learn more.)
Lastly, I’ll share the best piece of advice I have ever gotten about hiring – it was from my mom. She told me to never hire anyone you wouldn’t like to go to lunch with. Work is a big part of your life – spend it with people you like to be around.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please share your experiences on working with clients or agencies.
It’s an exciting time in marketing – so remember to have fun and keep looking forward.
- Scott LoSasso, President