Don't wait to fix your client/agency relationships

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Fundamental flaws and inefficiencies in client/agency relationships waste valuable time and money. Too many clients dish out bad to below-average agency reviews, which often end up in an agency's unnecessary termination.
Unfortunately, because of the intense pressures on both clients and agencies to be highly innovative using new media to deliver more “value,” many of the requirements for a really great client/agency relationship are frequently ignored.
Our manufacturer clients often ask us to analyze why their agencies have so many cost-overruns, missed timelines and so much personnel turnover. They also want to know why agencies often come up short in delivering what they consider to be value, new ideas and great creative. Some of the typical responses from both sides are:
From client: “Too many demands, too much to do, too little time, too many priorities, not enough help. We just want to get through this year. It's a new world now. Our agency does not have enough expertise.”
From agencies: “The client is constantly changing their minds about what they want in what channels. The direction we get is seldom very clear. Just when we get brand managers up to speed, they leave. Our clients don't really have a clue about judging creative. Ever since we have consolidated our business, integration of all our network companies has been a nightmare”
There is one paramount factor that needs a lot of emphasis because it can trump any client/agency relationship: Results. If an agency does not play a meaningful role in delivering results there is no “value” in keeping that agency around, regardless of the nature of their relationship.
So how do you go about finding a fix? A good starting point is for client and agency to develop a mutually acceptable, measurable set of needs, objectives, expectations and deliverables.
Too many clients and agencies do not understand that optimizing their relationship is neither a quick nor permanent fix.
Whether you are a client or an agency, there is no value in waiting for an annual review to begin repairing a bad relationship. Do it immediately because the more you postpone it or ignore a bad situation, the more the damage and money that will be lost on both sides.

Fred Kellogg is president, SPOT Healthcare Communications Consultants

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