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CMO checklist: before you run an agency review

CMO checklist: before you run an agency review

The best work often comes from a long-standing client-agency relationship. The agency team has a deep understanding of the client’s business and brand, keeps a close eye on competition and knows which levers to pull to help their client succeed. This basic principle holds true for client-agency relationships of all types, from creative, media and PR to digital, shopper and performance marketing.

And still, sometimes, you need a new agency.

Many clients decide they need a new agency and rush headlong into a review! After all, they are under intense pressure these days and their business needs the support. Haste, however, can create future problems. What should a marketer do to be ready when they need a review?

Here’s a checklist to get ready.

The CMO Checklist: Before You Run a Review

Do the following and you will be ready to effectively run your review:

1. Be certain a change is warranted: If you’re replacing an agency, are you certain the source of the agency’s existing challenges isn’t your team, your process or your guidance? Ongoing communication, top to top calls and an annual 360 client-agency evaluation process can help identify changes that are necessary.

If you have a need that isn’t already accommodated by any of your agency roster’s existing SOWs, are you sure you don’t already have the right agency onboard that can effectively absorb the new scope? It’s well worth it to take a look before, or as part of launching a review.

2. Make sure the business need is defined: This is core to how you tell your story to your peers, your team and prospective agencies.

3. Assign a process leader: Running a review is a big task. Be sure to assign a process leader that understands the business challenge and knows how to navigate the internal systems.

4. Create a plan: Create a plan that will get the review done with a favorable outcome that inspires the organization. Do you have the available staff with the necessary experience to manage the review or should you hire a search consultant?

5. Carve out the necessary resources: You’ll need a budget for the process; staff support; OOP budgets for travel.

6. Match your timeline with the business calendar: A modern marketing department always faces tough business challenges and a packed calendar. Plan ahead so you fit this effort appropriately into the marketing and business calendar and workflow.

7. Define the scope, deliverables and budget: These basics are critical to how you plan the review, what agencies you consider and how you evaluate agencies.

8. Socialize the change internally: Agency reviews touch more of an organization than just marketing. Be sure to socialize your plan upfront with key peers and influencers so they are supportive down the road when they are needed. Take special care to involve Strategic Sourcing teams early to leverage their expertise, define clear roles and be sure that policies are appropriately understood and covered.

9. Update your MSA: Best practices in client-agency MSAs change every couple of years. Make sure yours are updated before you hire a new agency.

10. Brief your team: You’ve defined the business and marketing need; socialized the need; assigned a leader; defined the timeline, budget and scope; and developed a plan. Now brief your team and ensure their support.

Clients that do the above prework – checking all the boxes – invariably run more effective, efficient, and successful reviews. Let us know if you’d like to discuss any of these approaches – we’re always happy to jump on a call.

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.