Best Digital Agency

How to manage your advertising agency.

Your ad agency to client relationship is critical to marketing success.

Your relationship with your advertising agency is as valuable as the financial investment you’re making in their services. In fact, much like relationships with employees, your agency relationships should be nurtured.

At Cement, we pride ourselves in our strong agency-client relationships. We call them partnerships and the minute we are being treated like a vendor, red flags rise and we have an internal conversation on whether or not the relationship should continue. It’s never easy, but we’ve walked away from business or terminated contracts based on negative client behavior.

In the spirit of making our professional lives as marketing professionals a bit easier, here’s our list of hard earned tips on making the absolute best out of your ad agency relationship. Whether you have hired a traditional advertising agency, a digital marketing agency, a web design firm, a social marketing firm, a search marketing firm, a public relations agency or a branding agency, these words of wisdom apply.

Here are our top tips on how to make the most of your advertising agency relationship:

1. Meet with your ad agency team face to face.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but when things get busy and projects are rolling right along the face to face meetings are at risk. When conference calls are ruling the day it’s time to stop, take a breath, and make the effort to meet in the same room why not find out more. Even if travel is involved, spring for that cost as the client. Remember, you are investing in the agency’s services, but the relationship is just as critical. Just like hiring employees, on-boarding a new agency is an investment. Preserving the relationship for years and years to come produces the best results as the agency becomes integrated with your team. Face to face meetings are a critical piece of that puzzle.

Red ad agency relationship flag: You haven’t met face to face and your agency is requesting a meeting.

2. Respect budgets.

When you hire a service-based advertising agency there is always a chance the budget won’t be precisely on target. And when scopes creep and projects go off track, unanticipated budget items can become a point of major tension between ad agencies and their clients. At Cement, we go to great lengths in the discovery phase of every project to turn over every possible outcome. In fact, we don’t commit to a pinned down cost for a website development until we have completed a site map, content inventory and wireframes. This protects both sides – the agency and the client – from unexpected costs. As a result our scopes are generally correct. But surprises happen, and even more likely, clients request changes. Changes are just fine, as long as you are willing to pay for them. Hopefully your agency relationship is built on a solid foundation of trust and budgets will be straightforward and easy to understand. If you have baggage from previous agency relationships, hold a team building meeting before you even begin your work to clear the air and vent.

Red ad agency relationship flag: when an agency sends you an invoice without a prior approved estimate. Nothing should come as a surprise. You should always approve a change in the budget or scope.

3. Trust your ad agency’s opinion. And if you don’t, fire them.

To be clear, there’s a difference between being a constructive team player and constantly questioning your agency’s judgement. We encourage constructive participation, always. After all, without our client’s valuable input, we would be a pretty ineffective ad agency. But, when client participation turns into constant questioning of tactics, things get rocky. If you find yourself doing constantly questioning strategy and judgement, take a long hard look at the relationship with the ad agency. Perhaps, the agency is not fostering your trust. There’s merit to that. Tell them your concerns, express your doubts and hopefully the agency can restore your confidence. On the other end of the spectrum, we also wouldn’t want you to completely turn a blind eye to your agency’s work. It’s important to always keep a watchful eye on performance. Essentially, you should manage your agency the way you manage your employees. And to encourage productivity, people need to be trusted to do what they do best. Make the same considerations for your ad agency.

4. Ask the right questions.

All too often we are wowed by the new business process and blown away by fancy proposals and flashy suits. But, when it comes down to the bare bones relationship – there are critical elements that should never be overlooked. Slow to hire, quick to fire applies to agencies just like it does to employees.

When vetting ad agencies during the RFP or hiring process consider the following internal questions:

  • Do the agency’s skill sets line up with our needs?
  • Can we trust them?
  • Does their team fit our team’s culture?
  • Will my internal team work well with their team?
  • How did their last client relationship end and why?
  • Do they have case studies?
  • Can you call their references?

At the end of the day, your ad agency relationship should be treated like any other relationship in your professional life. Have open and honest conversations, face to face whenever possible and be prepared to hear constructive feedback. You’ll win in the end when your ad agency out performs the competition’s.