The Insights Blog

A recipe for better marketer and agency alignment and results: The Top to Top Call

A recipe for better marketer and agency alignment and results: The Top to Top Call


Marketers face tougher jobs in 2022 than ever before. And they need to get every ounce of productivity and effectiveness from their agency investments.

The impact on agencies is significant. In the past year there has been record CMO movement and CMO tenure has declined to its lowest levels in years. Agencies face a tougher marketplace than ever before.

In this situation it would seem obvious that it is in marketers and agencies best interests to make these relationships work. Yet the modern marketer is pulled in so many directions from business issues and staffing challenges to digital transformation and data and Martech initiatives that it is easy to miss some of the basics in leading and managing key client-agency relationships.

In our experience, a routine, well planned and managed top to top call between the top marketer leading the agency relationship and their agency counterpart can be the secret weapon to greater effectiveness and results. And there is a simple formula for these calls.

The key to these calls starts with making them routine and efficient. Top marketers and agency leadership don’t have time for lengthy jawing at each other – they need to cover the business and priorities in an efficient yet friendly manner. Here are the key topics for a fantastic top to top call.

The Business

The business should always be topic number one. What’s going on? What has changed? What are the impacts of any changes on priorities and what does that mean for the agency?

This is a critical starting point because the agency will do a better job if they know what is happening to the client’s business.


Agencies need to know as soon as possible if there is a change in client priorities. And hearing about such a change from key client leadership can really help put any changes in context.

The combination of keeping the agency current on the business and any impacts changes to the business may have on marketing – and by default agency – priorities is priceless. This discussion brings the agency into the role of problem solver. It is the role great agencies thrive upon and the ideal way to get an optimal return on your agency investment.

What’s Working & What is Not

With the status of the business and any changes to company priorities covered, it is also important to quickly discuss what is working well and what could be working better in the client-agency relationship. This is such an important conversation to have routinely. By making the conversation a routine effort, both parties can work on being better partners and avoid small issues becoming big issues.

How Can Each Leader Help

Before wrapping up the call, it’s important for each leader to ask how they can help the other succeed. These are business relationships, but the business is managed by very specific people. Help your counterpart succeed and you will be helping yourself.

Recapping: The Agenda for a Fantastic Top to Top Call

The ideal Top to Top call covers these four topics:

  • The business
  • Priorities
  • What is working and what is not working
  • How the leaders can help the other

Make these calls a routine part of your client-agency relationship management and you’ll get a better relationship, better work, a more enthusiastic client-agency relationship and enhanced return on investment.

Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.