A friend of mine who owns a small agency asked for my perspective on best practices for agencies. Here’s what I sent her, which after I realized would make a blog post!…
I’ve worked with about 10 or more agencies, plus many technology suppliers, and there’s a lot to improve.
Let me start a few ideas that come to mind:
1) Pitches are not grounded enough in the client’s business objectives, strategy or measurements. Nor are they tailored to the ‘style’ of the company. The best pitches ‘feel’ like that agency was part of the company. I think agencies should be seen as extensions of the team, and therefore evaluated as if you were to hire them as employees. The further they are along on that path of alignment in the pitch, the better the chance to win.
2) Incentives are not aligned. Agencies want to drum up projects and bill hours. I put bonus plans in place for our agencies at Dell driven by Dell performance metrics.
3) Some agencies pitch with the best team and hand over to new employees. The team you have a year from now is rarely as good as the team you got to kick off.
4) Respect client time. Come in with an ‘answer first’ approach, with the recommendation, and with clear follow through, follow up, action steps, dates, owners…along with what we discussed last time. Clients want a sense of progress and what to do next…but done quickly.
5) Perspective. The agency who should have perspective on competitors, best practices, and the ‘buzz’ in the industry. Agencies could be more proactive in educating the clients on what’s new, what’s the latest. They should forward articles, events, organizations, etc.
6) Agency should be clear on how they want to be managed, and that they won’t agree with the client on everything. At first I had a problem with an agency at Dell, because they were so opinionated. I soon realized that iron sharpened iron and we reached the best decisions that way. Ultimately I made the final call, but unlike other agencies, I had a special relationship with them after I came to that ‘more humble’ perspective. I think agencies could be more explicit about suggesting that’s how they will work with clients, and not apologize for that.