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Couples Therapy: Brands, Your Agency Has Something Important to Share

Wedding bands Marketing is all about human interaction, between marketer and audience, certainly, but also between agency and client. I’ve spent a little more than half my career on the client side, “managing” agency partners on behalf of organizations of all sizes. Early in my career, as the marcom manager for an up-and-coming division of a Fortune 500 company, I had the good fortune to work with a boutique marketing firm whose leader remains a mentor and friend to this day. He earned his marketing chops with major corporations and Madison Avenue agencies, so his counsel was usually delivered in pretty direct fashion. He and his team were adept at the dance of the agency-client dynamic – they pushed just enough to advocate for the concepts they proposed, which were often outside our conservative comfort-zone, but they were equally receptive and responsive to our perspective, feedback and limitations (creative and otherwise). The mutual respect and trust that developed over time resulted in some pretty creative and, for the time and the industry, incredibly unique and memorable concepts. In short, he and his team showed me how incredibly productive and effective a positive agency-client relationship can be. Alas, not every match is made in heaven, but smart agencies – and smart clients – understand that the best, most creative ideas come from positive working relationships.  And while the agency is hired for its expertise and is certainly responsible for doing its best to foster positive working relationships with its clients, it’s not a one-way street. Clients have skin in the game, too. So how can you and your agency/client make this relationship thing work? Here are a few tips to consider: Set clear expectations: Before you even begin, both client and agency must define expectations for the relationship. Who will be the points of contact, what are each party’s Holding handsbusiness processes, how will you define success, etc.?  All these questions, while seemingly obvious, can become serious bumps in the road to a positive working relationship. Communicate: Beyond the typical due-diligence and discovery, take the time to get to know one another. Ask a lot of questions. Seek as much information as possible. Schedule regular check-ins (daily, weekly, monthly) and then communicate some more! Trust & Respect: Setting clear expectations and keeping the lines of communication between client and agency open and flowing will go far to creating a positive working relationship, and as it evolves across the give-and-take of projects and campaigns, mutual trust and respect can develop. Stretch: If every campaign was the same, no-one would get noticed. While agencies must always keep their clients’ best interests in mind, it’s okay to nudge them beyond their comfort zones a bit. Clients: Remember that you hired the agency for its expertise and try to keep an open mind and trust that your agency has your best interests in mind when they present you with ideas you probably wouldn’t have thought of, or that even make you a bit uncomfortable. Doing things differently can be a very good thing. Marketing agencies are not your typical vendors – you can’t simply place your order for X-service and expect it to succeed. Marketers (and advertising, public relations, social media, etc.) need good information about your (company, service, product, all of the above), a strong sense of your goals and desired outcomes, and healthy doses of flexibility and creativity. Investing the time to create a positive, open, mutually respectful working relationship – that special dance between agency and client – will only up your chances of taking home the ‘coveted mirror-ball trophy’!
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