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December 23, 2021

After a Year of Less, Do More with Your Agency in 2021

Samantha Davis

Do More with Your Agency in 2021

2020 has been the year of simplification. Many of us have learned how to live without. So many external forces in the last 12 months have drained any remaining mental load. And organizations have gotten really good at doing more with less. Less spending, less human capital, less time. 

Agency relationships mean more than they ever have before. With the shiny prospect of a new year around the corner, how do you balance doing more with less when working with your agency? There’s a way to work smarter together, not harder.

 A new year brings different opportunities to right the wrongs of 2020. To get it right. Below are four areas where clients should dedicate the most effort in their agency relationships this year to make the best use of their investment.

  1. Clear, actionable creative brief

I would argue that the least sexy component of any new campaign or advertising initiative is the creative brief. But I’m challenging myself to “Make the Brief Sexy Again.” It requires an agency to possess an equally balanced understanding of your organization’s business problems, target demographic, USP, brand voice, and more. The best and most effective campaigns come from the most thoughtful and articulate briefs. 

Creative briefs provide a road map for ALL agency internal teams to effectively do their jobs. From concept to production, all the information one needs at any given time during a project should be distilled into an easy-to-read document. It also puts the responsibility for the success of the project on the shoulders of the Brand Executive. It level-sets expectations and provides specific, measurable guidelines for deliverables. 

A major project milestone should be the receipt and approval of a creative brief. If your agency partner is not writing one or providing ample time for your team’s thoughtful feedback before beginning a project, it’s time to start looking for a new agency. 

  1. Let your agency do the problem solving

Imagine you have an issue with your vehicle. Now think of your most trusted, expert mechanic in town. When you take your car in – you’re not telling them how to fix it or what diagnostic tests to run. Instead, you’re focused on the details of the problem. Clients should treat their agency partner similarly. Let the agency do the work of solving your business challenges with their expertise and intellectual capital. 

Clients serve an invaluable purpose – they have expert, institutional knowledge about their products, services, operations, and competitors. Many times, clients come to the table attempting to do our job for us. Why pay someone for something you can do yourself? You’ve made a sizable investment in an agency to develop recommendations for you – let them.  

Approach new projects or campaigns with your sights on one important detail – what is the single most important thing your agency should communicate in this deliverable? Agencies worth your investment will provide a plan on how to get there. 

  1. Provide specific feedback 

Finding the time to provide detailed, thoughtful feedback to your agency is challenging enough. But I’m making the argument that clients should prioritize this activity over any other competing project. I promise this request is not selfish. While it takes longer in the moment, when clients make the effort to summarize clear direction in writing, it ultimately makes the project more efficient.

Whether you’re reviewing digital ad banners or storyboards for your next TV campaign, use as many specifics as possible when detailing your likes and dislikes. Why don’t you like that color? What troubles you about the word in that headline? How does the message make you feel? Similar to tip number 2, it’s a better use of your time to articulate the problem instead of trying to determine a new solution.  

While it is the responsibility of the agency to problem solve for you, it is dangerous to assume they can read your mind. Good relationships are built on a foundation of trust. And trust comes from honest, regular communication. Get into the habit of being honest with your agency – provide praise if they’ve knocked it out of the park. But don’t be afraid to let them know if they’ve not met your expectations.  

  1. Invest in tools that determine ROI

Without measurement, there is no management. Agencies and clients spend a lot of time identifying a project, meeting project milestones, and launching deliverables. As much, if not more, time should be spent collecting data that determines campaign efficacy than all three of these initiatives combined. 

Starting with clear, measurable objectives is a fantastic starting point. “We will be successful if we accomplish X by Y.” Developing goals for a campaign not only helps agencies orient themselves toward what matters most, it also provides clients a metric to justify the value of their investment. If you don’t meet the goals, spend time asking why. Fail fast with your agency and adjust course. 

Use part of your retainer or project budget to include analytics reports. Ask for your agency to recommend tools that provide feedback on media placement. Align with your internal sales organization closely during campaign launch dates to determine revenue growth. Marketing and communications organizations that are obsessed with measurement are the best clients to work with and provide the most value to its internal business partners.

Expectations are always high in a new year. The client-agency relationship is no exception. Working with clients is a privilege – it’s the best and hardest part of my job. Make the investment to focus on the important stuff with your agency this year. 

Streamline your efforts in key areas. It will save you time and enable your agency to provide the best work possible. And that’s what we’re all really after anyway. If you’re looking for a partner who’s up for the challenge in 2021, let’s chat.