September 21, 2023

Digital Marketing Education

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How to be a great client—9 ways to inspire your agency’s best work

Take a long view and understand if it’s personal or systemic

Look at the agency relationship longitudinally and emphasize whether things are improving over time. You’ll sustain the feeling that there is one team by acknowledging there will be good and bad days and months. Also, take inventory to understand if you just don’t happen to vibe with the account person (you can always ask for a rotation) versus saying “the agency is no good.”

Reset before review

If the work diminishes and tensions build, ask for a reset meeting that includes the agency’s CEO, team lead and top two subject matter experts. Write up a one-pager so you’re clear on what’s not working, what alternatives you envision, when you want to see changes and how you’ll evaluate them. If that stalls, contract a third party to help surface underlying issues and create solutions. You’ll likely avoid the $1 million and months of wasted opportunity the recent ANA/4A’s study found on agency review costs.

Within an agency, the best ideas flock to the best clients. The best team members flock to the best clients. And the greatest velocity of work gravitates toward the best clients. After 20 years managing agencies, I can assure you there is both a motivation credit and a motivation tax. You want the credit.

Marketing’s biggest opportunity isn’t new data or technology—it’s reenergizing relationships with agencies whose talent can change the fortunes of a business. When you make your agency team members feel cared for, human and part of your team, retention goes up, ideas get better and they dig deeper.


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