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How to Work With an Agency

How to Work With an Agency

By Ellen Fruchtman, President This isn’t about working with us. This article is about what you need to know about client/agency relationships. The best way to work and get what you want from any agency. The best way to keep the relationship flowing in the right direction. And yes, the quickest way to demoralize your agency. How to work with an agency. The first thing to remember when choosing an agency is that you are hiring a group of people who are specialists. No different than hiring your accountant or lawyer. If you don’t feel that they are specialists and know what they are doing, then you shouldn’t hire them. To that end, make sure you look at their body of work. Talk to clients who already work with them. Ask them for some case studies. In turn, share your objectives. And, most importantly discuss the dreaded money issue. Communicate your budget from the get-go. And, understand all the charges that are associated with working with them. There are three different agency-client relationships:
  1. The agency is in total control of everything they do for you. They drive the car. You see what they do beforehand, but you are letting them, well, drive the car!
  2. You are a front-seat passenger. Meaning you provide your objectives; you provide solid input; you provide suggestions, and, of course, you sign off on what they do. But you hire them to drive the car. Their professionalism is there to set your strategy and set you up for success.
  3. You are a backseat driver. Meaning your agency becomes an executor. Nothing more. You are telling them what to do. You’re the consummate backseat driver. Most agencies will not want this type of relationship. If you are a backseat driver, consider hiring freelancers for specific projects.
Now, some of this comes down to personality. If you are a total control freak, you’re going to be a backseat driver. If this is who you are, and this is the relationship you want, then that should be discussed at the very get-go of the relationship. I would also add that you may not need an agency. You may simply need some freelance workers (designer, social marketing, media buyers) who can execute your vision. Number one is a little scary. It requires total trust in the people you work with. This can evolve over time and might not be the very best way to start. But again, you should communicate with your agency that this is where you want to get to. Number two is where most clients fall with their agency. There’s give and take. It evolves into a great relationship. The best way to get what you want from your agency. The best way to get what you want from your agency is to allow them to do their job. Provide some kudos every now and then. Take their suggestions. Respect what they are telling you to do. You know the saying a little bit of sugar goes a long way? That’s what agency people need. An occasional pat on the back. Know what that makes them do? Work harder. In addition to that, pay them a fair amount of money for what they do. People always talk about agencies nickel and diming them, when the truth is, that can go the other way. And needless to say, pay them on time for their work. You wouldn’t let someone walk out of your store with a product and not pay you for 60 days. That would be insane. Remember what agencies sell. While you sell tangible products, they sell services and ideas. All of which takes time. Continual last-minute projects will eventually kill the relationship. And, quite frankly, will not net you the best work. When you work with your agency this way it makes your agency want to work hard for you and Provide you the very best creative. They feel respected and, in turn, will give it everything they have. The best way to demoralize an agency. The very best way to demoralize an agency (hired for their professionalism, and who has been told to either drive the car or sit in the front seat), is to change that relationship midstream and become a backseat driver. The best way to demoralize an agency is to tell them (not ask them) to make a massive change in direction, strategy, and creative, just because you think that’s the way it should be. Or you read something online. Or worse yet, you talked to a few employees, possibly some relatives, who provided their “solid” input. Someone truly professional educated on the latest and greatest. Has sifted through every article you may have read. Is discerning. It would be akin to finishing extensive training in gemology; doing it for over 20 years; and a customer continuing to question your knowledge because they read something on the Internet. The best way to demoralize an agency is to send their work to another agency to critique. Clients have come to us to do the same prior to making a move. And, we decline to go down that path. When you go down that path, here’s what it says to any agency: We don’t trust you. We don’t think you are providing us the best work or direction. Doing this will do irreparable harm to your relationship. Always remember this. Put yourself in that position and be honest with yourself as to how all of the above would impact you personally. Most agencies (beyond a fair wage) ask for very little. They want to be respected for their acumen and experience in the business. It’s okay to question. It’s your business! But, at the end of the day, if you don’t respect what they do and how they do it, then you will never get what you want (or deserve) in the relationship. Remember, marketing today is far more complicated than it was 25 years ago. If you are considering hiring (or currently working with) a professional to move the business forward, just let them.
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