Here are 12 ways for clients to get the best out of their agency

“Now more than ever”, clients want their agencies to deliver bang for buck. Most clients have been persuaded by agencies to part with lots of bucks, for very minimal bang. But what’s the best way to maximise bang for every buck? 

Here are my suggestions from nearly a decade spent working in agencies, learning from the great clients we’ve worked with:

Imagine their failure equals your failure

If you’re as invested in their success as you are, you’ll give your agency all the tools possible to make any campaign or project the biggest success it can be. As Harry Truman once said: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”. Well, your agency probably doesn’t really care about getting the credit, but it’s not conducive to an environment of creativity if you are constantly dangling in front of a bus. 

Make time for your agency

And if you can’t, delegate to someone within your company you can trust. Agencies can’t just create out of thin air. They need your time to learn, to get feedback and to truly understand what’s happening within the business.

Radical candour

Yes, you should be able to be completely honest with your agency so they meet your high expectations. But they should be able to be honest with you so you meet theirs. By creating a safe environment where the agency can tell you when there’s a dead end or a problem, it means no time spent going down dark allies. 

Be disciplined

Protect the time you have with your agency. Don’t send them on wild goose chases and when it comes to the sign-off process, twenty rounds of sign-off from 20 people isn’t good for anyone’s creativity, timesheets or sanity. 

Clear objectives, BUT flexibility on how to get there

You need to be completely aligned with your agency on where you want to get to – whatever that is. They and you need to fully understand the value you plan to create together. This needs to be etched in stone and there needs to be absolutely no debate about whether it’s to change behaviour, sell more products, raise investment or anything else. But when it comes to getting there, you’ll get the best out of your agency if they feel empowered to use their expertise to make it happen. 

Let them try your product 

Let’s say you’re a trainer brand. If your agency doesn’t wear those trainers, experience how they feel, or the reaction from people when they wear them, then how can they really market them beyond vanilla, first-phase thinking? 

Treat them as part of your team

When we first started Story Shop, one of our key drivers was that we felt agencies and clients were too far apart. By being as embedded as possible with the team, it stops the “us” and “them” that is so toxic for client relationships. With an agency, you get all the benefits of an external pair of eyes, but also a bigger team with wider skills. 

Remember why you hired them

If you hired them for their creative flair. Think about that before every interaction.  Before firing your existing agency for “not being creative enough” ask yourself if you really fostered that environment? Before looking for an agency to be creative, think about whether you’re actually willing to accept creativity when push comes to shove.

Remember the pub test

Would you want to go to the pub with your agency team? If not, then do you really want to spend the time necessary to make the campaign a success with them? 

Think about who’ll really be on the team

It’s all well and good seeing the shiny directors at a pitch, but who’ll actually be working on the account while the directors chase the shiny new object? Get to the bottom of that before day one. 

Don’t haggle

Instead, just go with another agency. Chances are, your agency hasn’t quoted trying to rip you off – they want a win-win. They’ve quoted for what they think it will take to meet your objectives and make sure everyone’s happy. And when everyone’s happy, you’re more likely to get great work. If they’ve quoted and it’s too rich for your blood, then chances are you won’t get the campaign that they boast about on their creds. You’ll get a watered-down version. 

Say thank you

What an incredibly powerful phrase. When a client says those two little words, it’s like a drug: you just want more thank yous! If you think not being nice is the answer to get the most out of your agency, what you’ll actually get is safe options and they’re far less likely to go above and beyond. 

Thank you for reading. 

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