Avidan Strategies’ 2015 Client/Agency Relationship Survey uncovered some troubling statistics that point to a lack of trust in marketing agencies.
- Only 16% of marketers on the client side find agencies “very good” at orchestrating integrated solutions
- 73% of clients find agencies incapable of uncovering genuine consumer insights
- Almost 50% of clients feel agencies don’t know their business well enough and are slow to respond to market dynamics
This lack of trust and declining confidence has led to increased internal hiring of marketing staff. It has also led to more frequent client turnaround on the agency side, as businesses keep searching for a partner that fulfills their idea of what an agency should provide within often-strict budget constraints.
Unclear (or unrealistic) expectations inevitably lead to unmet expectations. We’re in the business of helping our clients meet their sales and marketing goals, but our expectations around outcomes often vary. While we are confident that we can get our clients where they need to be, it might take more time than the client is expecting. This can create a common scenario: A client signs on with an agency for a year. They launch a few campaigns and don’t see a dramatic jump in lead generation or sales, so they decide to engage a different partner – only to experience the same result.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?
Traditional ROI measurements are focused on revenue generation and lead capture, and don’t take into consideration the intangible effects of digital marketing like brand awareness or trustworthiness. Results build slowly and steadily, but reaching your goal doesn’t happen overnight. This is a common issue with big-budget projects like a website redesign or for ongoing iterative services like PPC and SEO. Incremental growth isn’t always enough to cement a relationship, and it’s often challenging for clients who have been burned before to learn to trust again.
Project-based work creates additional challenges when the original project comes to an end but there is still work to be done. Clients sometimes feel like they are being “nickel-and-dimed” and constantly asked to sign off on new budgets when they want to make changes or enhancements to a website or develop new creative for an online campaign.
It’s easy to see where these rifts can start, but I believe it’s possible to create true partnerships despite these challenges. How?
REGULARLY SHARE BUSINESS INFORMATION
A typical engagement kicks off with a discovery session, where the client shares detailed information about the history of the organization, their key competitors, their primary goals and other critical information. This information helps guide the creation of an effective digital strategy. In many relationships, this is where the in-depth sharing stops. Subsequent meetings become focused on tactics and timelines and other relevant business information falls by the wayside.
A successful partnership requires ongoing information sharing so that your web design and development agency can truly understand your challenges, get insights into what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust their strategy accordingly. We have regular meetings with our clients, often including daily scrums where we check in on project progress. These are opportunities for our clients to share insights into their operations and industry along with status updates. This knowledge helps us brainstorm better solutions and adapt to their most pressing needs. It also helps us cultivate long-term relationships because we develop a deep knowledge of our clients’ businesses.
STAY OPEN TO NEW PERSPECTIVES
Working with an interactive agency gives you access to a larger pool of resources with skill sets and expertise that would be cost-prohibitive to bring in house, from designers and developers to certified project managers and interactive marketing analysts. Over time, an internal team’s view becomes increasingly narrow as they become mired in their own personal experience within the organization. (The same could be said of any agency that focuses on a single industry – their breadth of experience quickly diminishes.) This is not a criticism; the institutional knowledge of your team is incredibly valuable and can help your partner achieve even greater results. By working with a range of different clients, we see a broader set of challenges and are therefore able to create a wider range of web solutions that can be applied to your business goals. A digital agency’s breadth of experience and unique outlook will help you step outside of your individual perspective and challenge you to try something new.
BE WILLING TO INVEST IN STRATEGY
Using a digital marketing agency solely to execute an internally-developed marketing plan is a missed opportunity and limits the impact of budget and resources. To get the biggest return on your investment, you have to be willing to engage your partner for both strategy AND execution. While there is an additional cost associated with leveraging external resources from different departments for brainstorming and high-level strategy, the investment will pay off in the quality of the work. In fact, the best results come from a combination of agency and client strategy, where the two teams work closely together and communicate transparently to solve problems.
Building a successful client/agency relationship requires open communication, collaboration and compromise. When you kick off your next engagement, begin with true partnership in mind and set expectations accordingly. The time and effort will pay off in the long run.