The learning process for better (working) relationships
Taking the time to learn your agency's processes and culture—and making sure your agency understands yours—can help you build an enduring partnership.
As a brand manager, how do you go about building a strong and lasting working relationship with your agency? I'm sure this question occurs to most brand managers, but when you think about it there is an easy answer: Tell your agency account executives what you want them to know about working with your company, and find out from them what you need to know about working with their agency. In working together, both agency and client should become familiar with each other's processes, culture, and communication preferences.
Having this knowledge will help each of you establish a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. Here are three questions you might consider.
1. Do you have a clear understanding of your agency's processes?
How much should you know about your agency's processes? In my experience, the more details you have, the better off you will be.
For instance, you may wonder why it takes the agency three days to make revisions on a sales aid. You should be aware of how a job routes through your agency. Understand that for projects to attain the high level of quality your company and the agency seek, the entire account team (including the copywriter, art director, account executive, editor, traffic manager, production manager, and scientific director) must review the job.
Be aware of the care and attention your agency gives each job. Realize that when reviewing jobs the agency strives to keep two equally important goals in mind: to meet your deadline and to ensure quality. By becoming aware of agency process beforehand, you can prevent yourself from having unrealistic expectations about timelines and production.
2. Have you communicated your company's processes and goals to the agency?
If you haven't addressed this question, prepare to be disappointed with your agency. It's a given, of course, that the agency must fully grasp your product's brand strategy and positioning.
But have you educated your agency on your company's processes? For instance, how frequently do MLR meetings take place? How much time does MLR need for reviewing a job? How do jobs route, and how long does the review process take? Does MLR have a preference regarding referencing style and sourcing?
What is the culture like at your company? Do you have good rapport with your team members? Remember that on your side of the business—as on the agency's side--the more details you can provide, the better the service you will receive.
3. Have you gone on an agency tour?
Visit the agency not just so you can discuss strategy over lunch, but so you can meet key staff members who strive to make you look good—and who will be eager to demonstrate their efficiency in working together as a team.
Allow your account executive to take you on a tour of the agency. Experience the office ambience for yourself. Take in the vibrant colors and energy, and observe the award-winning work displayed on the walls. In short, experience the agency as a thriving creative place where good ideas are exchanged—a place where you enjoy doing business.
People sometimes cringe on hearing the word process, but there is no need to be intimidated. Think of process as a door that opens two ways to better communication and to building partnerships that are made to last.