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How to Go on Better Dates with Your Agency

Pete Campbell, from left, Don Draper and Roger Sterling are shown during a scene in popular TV series, "Mad Men". (MCT)

Brad Gellweiler
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a vast array of situations and gain skills at every level throughout my career. Through these experiences, I’ve dedicated myself to continuously learn and apply my knowledge to help our clients.

Agency horror stories are unfortunately a dime a dozen. Unresponsiveness and not feeling the love are synonymous with outsourcing to an agency. But there are some great partnerships out there. Creating a win-win between client and agency is incredibly fruitful for both parties. I’d like you to walk away from this article with some ideas on how to create a 2-way street that produces the best results.

 

1. Choosing the Right Partner

Bring the right partner to the dance – if you don’t take the time to choose wisely you’ll be stepping on each other’s toes. You want an advertising agency to challenge your way of thinking, but not take over your initiatives. To think with you, and in some cases for you when you don’t have the resources to do so. To be an extension of your business in the sense that they understand the goals and can bring out the best in your own ideas and views as well as their own.

1.a Group Think and Challenge

An ad agency allows you access to skilled individuals that your company would not be able to obtain or otherwise afford. What has worked for clients in the past is choosing an agency and professionals that are inherently different in the way they think and the ideas they bring. Groupthink is so valuable and naturally you’re tapping into the minds of 5+ individuals with any agency. You’ll kill two birds with one stone by having an agency handle the physical work as well as contribute to the overarching business ideation pool.

2. Hiking in Stilettos

Like buying a pair of shoes you need to assess the fit and purpose. Cramming your foot into a pair of shoes 3 sizes too small will result in very sore toes, and hiking in a pair of high heels will be a long painful journey for everyone involved.

Most agencies have a few core competencies. At Alpha Digital, we specialise and excel at SEO and Paid Advertising. We don’t pretend to be a jack of all trades and it’s important to be wary of companies that are. Being spread too thin and doing it all rarely produces outstanding results. More often this produces mediocre results across the board.

Beyond the tangible results it’s important to pair with an advertising agency based on your size. If you’re a large business paired with a small agency you’re likely to account for a big chunk of their revenue. They will bend over backwards to make you happy – which sounds great. However, taking up a larger portion of an agencies revenue poses a larger problem. Being worried about losing their holy grail, they will say yes to everything which kills groupthink. You want an agency to challenge you, understand how your business works and continually come up with creative ways to solve any problem. You don’t need an agency that is submissive and boring from fear.

On the flip side being a small company with a big agency you will most likely be neglected in the wake of larger accounts. Strike a balance of size and skill set to challenge creativity and push effectiveness.

2.a Remove Subjectivity

“I don’t like it”.  We’ve heard this mighty phrase a million times over and it’s frustrating. Not because a client doesn’t like something, but because they haven’t told us WHY. “I don’t like it” is subjective and with that we can’t understand how to improve it. By instead giving feedback in format of “I don’t like it because x” makes our jobs much easier. We can go back to the drawing board with direction.

2.b Don’t Become Personally Attached to Your Ideas

I’ve been in pitches before where our team has come up with a handful of ideas and they were all shot down. It’s natural to be disheartened by this but we need to understand that our clients don’t see ideas as yours or mine but the ideas of the agency. We need to keep adding and bring value to the table to stay relevant.

3. It’s Worth Asking the Question

Some ideas are not good ideas. The saying goes that there is no such thing as a bad idea. There is, I’ve seen them. But what’s worse is not throwing them out into the ether. As a digital agency, we are experts and the ones exposed to the newest trends, ideas and processes in our digital industry. While some ideas may not be right or feasible for our clients, it’s our responsibility to show them what’s out there.

What won’t work, what’s worth exploring, and what’s a homerun? Being proactive in this regard requires and understanding of the business, their goals, and how they operate internally. The digital industry is moving so quickly and recognising opportunities and acting on them is a point of difference.

 

4. Manage Expectations and Reciprocate the Love

We are accustomed to high expectations and as an agency ‘yesterday’ and ‘ASAP’ are normal deadlines. We hold ourselves to an even higher standard than our clients do. However, being an external party, it’s a natural occurrence to leave agencies intentionally or unintentionally out of the loop. A lack of communication on goals, processes, trends, calendar events, sales and structure hinders the work we are able to do.

If the goal is to be ahead of the pack we need to be feeding each other information at all times.

Agencies can be an incredible resource if used effectively. Like any relationship it’s give and take. The best results are always achieved through understanding and great communication.