How to Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Agency

What you get depends a lot on what you give. Here's how to maximize your agency relationship.

You’re in love. You met over coffee and you’ve progressed from lunch meetings to quality time spent at each other’s places. You’ve learned about each other’s past. You’ve shared your goals. Rose colored glasses firmly in place, you commit, sign some paperwork, and together take that leap of faith that signals both parties’ mutual commitment to . .

. . . your 12–16-month agency relationship.

It’s true: A good marketing agency relationship is like a good relationship. At the risk of sounding like Ben Higgins from this season of The Bachelor (sorry, I have pretty terrible taste in television and I guess the whole world now knows it), you have to be open, honest, communicative, in it for the right reasons, and really ready to commit — if you want to make it to the final rose ceremony achieve your marketing goals.

I’ve kicked off dozens of partnerships with companies over the course of my career and everything always starts out fine and dandy. Both sides feel the warm fuzzies during the pitch and proposal period and contracts are signed with the highest of hopes for the future.

Inevitably, though, the honeymoon period wears off. But you don’t have to lose that loving feeling.

It might not be easy to maintain the relationship day in and day out, but if you follow the five rules I outline below, you’ll make it through stronger, better, and more successful together than you ever could have been alone.

And now, the top five ways to get the most out of your marketing agency. Are you ready to take this leap of faith with me? Let’s begin.

1. Be Transparent

Of course, any relationship is built on open and honest communication. No one would deny that but executing this can sometimes be hard.

Too often, I have seen a company-agency relationship go south when assumptions are made, communication is lacking, or only partial information or feedback are provided.

If you really want your marketing agency to be successful, you have to share everything with them: the good, the bad, the ugly. Sure, you have your weekly status calls and the daily emails. But that isn’t enough.

Let your marketing agency in. Ask them to contribute to your internal conversations and invite them to attend your department’s (or company’s) meetings and planning sessions so they can hear your challenges, issues, wins, and goals first-hand.

As you may have discovered when you went to college, long-distance relationships aren’t easy to pull off. You can make them work, but in order to keep the spark alive, you need to see each other, be in the same room, and spend that quality time together.

If your marketing agency is close enough, invite them to work at your office: once a week, once a month, whatever. If your agency is a plane ride away, don’t fret over including a travel budget in your contract (trust me, your returns will be tenfold when it comes to the quality of work you’ll get and the attention you’ll demand).

Clear off a desk in the corner, give them your WiFi password, and let them spend the day meeting with you, your team, or even just walking the halls. This level of communication is priceless — and the work you do together will reflect your commitment.

2. Be Responsive

We’ve all been a part of the following scenarios at least once or twice in our relationships:

  • You’ve thought long and hard about something and shared what’s on your mind with your partner. After you spill, you get a blank stare, a nod and “mmm hmm,” or realize that they have been scrolling through Instagram the entire time you were talking.
  • You make plans. You prepare, show up, are ready to go . . . and they’re late. Or, they arrive and you can tell their mind is elsewhere. Or (and this is, of course, the worst), they stand you up.

If you hire a marketing agency, you’re likely spending good money on your partnership and have crafted your agreement on the premise of the billable hour. So it surprises me when I encounter situations where an email, request, deliverable, strategy suggestion, or something that we’ve been hired to do languishes in an inbox or gets minimal attention. Nothing stops forward progress (and undercuts your agency’s ability to achieve what you’ve asked them to do) than a lack of responsiveness.

In the same vein, each time you or a team member is tardy (or misses!) a scheduled status call or meeting, know that it can be a costly absence. You clearly want to make every contracted hour count and these habits lead to a loss of efficiency.

3. Give (and Receive) Tough Love

You’ve hit the equivalent of the seven-year itch with your marketing agency. Maybe you’ve miscommunicated, maybe your agency has let you down in some ways. Perhaps personalities have clashed or the promised progress toward the objectives you agreed on is lagging.

Deep, lasting, fulfilling relationships aren’t just built on sunshine and roses. There comes a time in every one when candid, straightforward feedback is required. And guess what? Your marketing agency might also need an opportunity to share their perspective on why things might not be going as well as you had hoped.

If shared with respect, if communicated with an eye towards solutions, these (sometimes scary, sometimes painful) conversations will likely do more to advance your progress than almost anything else.

It’s ideal to share this feedback as it comes up (don’t let resentment bubble!). But if it’s difficult to do so in the middle of daily work, set aside monthly or quarterly chats with your agency relationship manager to dive deep and be direct.

Take it from me: This isn’t easy. Tough love takes practice, but as long as you remember the “love” part and communicate with the goal of collective improvement in mind, you’ll see tenfold returns.

4. Roll Up Your Sleeves

Cliché alert! In order to build a good relationship, each person must give 100%. Unfortunately, taking on a relationship with a marketing agency doesn’t mean that you get to crack the whip and they have to do all the heavy lifting (bummer, right?).

What engaging a marketing agency usually means is that you’re given an agency team to manage. The amount of work flowing across your desk might actually increase in some ways — as they work hard to take you and your company further than you probably realized you could yourself.

Success means rolling up your sleeves alongside your agency team, to do what it takes to get things done. A good marketing agency will try to ease your workload as much as possible (trust us, we think about it daily), but will also need you to be as committed to your success as they are.

5. Get Out of the Office

Just like almost every lifestyle magazine suggests, you have to date your partner a bit sometimes in order to remember why you started the relationship in the first place.

It might seem like it doesn’t matter: Business is business, right?

Wrong. We’re all human and all of us work better when we know (and hopefully enjoy!) those we work with. Grab breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner, or drinks with the team at your marketing agency. Chat with them. Get to know each other: Share the names of your children; talk about the first job you ever had; rib them about the loss their alma mater suffered during last weekend’s football game.

Bonding with Your Marketing Agency

As the dead horse of this post suggests, an agency partnership is a true relationship.

The suggestions above are all meant to open lines of communication and invest both of you in each other’s success. Without a doubt, developing the best working atmosphere possible will lead to the best work from your marketing agency.

Have anything to add? Share your thoughts on what makes a marketing agency relationship work by leaving a Comment!


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