Looking for better work from your creative agency? This can lead marketing teams to those all-consuming, headline-grabbing agency pitches that end up being expensive, time-consuming and inherently risky beauty pageants. Enlightened pitch consultants will say they should be avoided if possible. But that means learning how to work better with your agencies in the first place.

Like you, agencies want to be doing good work that makes a positive impact on your business, rather than seeing retainers, effort and energy hoovered up by poor communications, ill-thought-out work or proposals for campaigns that never see the light of day – after all, you can’t put that in your portfolio or show-reel.

So anything that improves the agency relationship is a win for both sides.

Sometimes mistrust can creep into these relationships, mainly because of poor communication and expectation setting. Agencies need to be up-front with their charging models, which should be clear and transparent — there should be no surprises.

But marketers must also take their share of the blame. All too often, marketers send over half-formed ideas and rely on the agency to mind-read (or go through many, many rounds of reverse-briefing and creative review) until they get it right.

In large marketing teams, there needs to be enough oversight on the client side to ensure that every project being briefed to the agency is a strategic priority and aligned with your marketing objectives.

The alternative is really expensive.

One client of Simple found they were exceeding their agency SLAs so often across numerous agency relationships that their agency costs were 50% above retainer.

I’m talking about millions of dollars going out the door in endless rounds of creative review and amends, and lots of agency work that never saw the light of day.

And in these times of uncertain economic conditions – who can afford that?

It’s not as hard as you might think to improve the way you work with your agencies.

Here are some quick-fix tips.

  1. Approve every agency brief 
    Many marketers are not in a position to judge whether their latest marketing brainwave is a strategic priority or not. Having designated approvers who do know will dramatically reduce out-of-scope, misaligned and off-brand work.
  2. Write better briefs
    Not everyone in marketing is a trained marketer. And they don’t all know how to write a great brief (including insight and inspiration as well as information).
    Train your teams regularly in brief-writing, or use a marketing operations platform that can help you improve your briefs.
    Don’t forget you have 2 audiences: the creative team that will end up working on the brief, and the target persona whose behaviour you are actually trying to influence.
  3. Know and track your SLAs
    If 3 rounds of creative review are all that’s included in your agency retainers, at least know what it costs every time you get up to 6 or 10. A couple of hours spent on strategic thought on the client side can eliminate thousands of wasted dollars on the agency side.
  4. Train your people in agency management skills
    Agency management is often a skill that’s learned on the job. Agencies spend a lot of time cultivating relationships at multiple levels with important clients. Similarly, marketers need to invest in ensuring their people know how to get the most out of their agencies.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but do these things and your working relationship with your agencies will improve, along with your outcomes.

We’ve helped marketing teams achieve dramatically better outcomes, save time and dramatically increase their ROI on agency spend just by instilling a little more rigour and process into the way they communicate with their agencies.

Simple’s intelligent marketing operations platform helps marketers reduce complexity, work more effectively across the end-to-end marketing process, and ultimately deliver a better customer experience.

The benefits are much broader than improving the quality of agency relationships.

Reach out if you’d like me to run you through them.