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Questions agencies should be asking clients

Questions agencies should be asking clients


Last week we discussed the key questions that clients should be asking their agencies. What questions should agencies be asking their clients?

Just as it’s never been more complex or challenging to be a marketer, it has also never been more challenging to lead an agency. And just as marketers need to get every possible ounce of impact from their marketing and agency investments, agencies need to be positioned to help deliver that impact.

To help agencies deliver that outsized impact, we’ve identified the key questions agencies should be asking clients (which are critical questions for clients to be able to answer!). What are those questions?

What is the primary business impact needed as a result of the agency’s work?

This question should be the starting point for any agency-client relationship. Clients don’t invest in agency support for the hours involved or the work. They have business issues they need to address. They may need to improve a challenging situation like a share or revenue decline, offset competitive threats or better connect the customer journey for greater Impact. Or they may want to take better advantage of opportunities like a new product launch or geographic expansion. When agencies understand the business issues that are most important to the client, they are much more likely to be able to really help.

How do you have business conversations that help you better understand the client’s needs? We’d be happy to discuss that with any agency.

What level of agency talent do you expect on your business and are you willing to pay market rates for that talent?
The agency business is a people business. Agency staffing is becoming more challenging everyday. Agencies compete with big tech, consultants, startups and insourced positions for the same people. While it is fair game for clients to ask their agencies how they plan to hire, train, develop and retain the best talent, the flip side is that agencies should be staffing their accounts with the talent level that the client is willing to pay for. Paying for a talented agency team is one of client leadership’s key responsibilities.
Do you routinely ask the agency to evaluate the client’s performance as an agency partner?
Good clients get good work from their agencies. How do they do that? They have internal alignment on what is needed, brief effectively, give clear and effective feedback and give the agency the time and resources needed to succeed. Bad clients not only get bad work, but they also waste critical resources and burn out their partners. They don’t brief effectively, constantly change directions, give poor feedback and often blame the agency for their own inadequacies. Good clients know that their people and processes play a huge role in the ability of their agency to succeed and work on their own skills and processes. They want to know how they can be better clients. We have conducted hundreds of client-agency 360 evaluations and the clients involved invariably become better clients and get better return on their agency investments.

Bonus: four evergreen questions…

1. What is your approval process, and who can approve what work?

2. What top-to-top check in cadence can you commit to?

3. How will you evaluate the agency’s work?

4. What should I know about your future business needs?

The best agencies are thought partners that bring new ideas, skills and knowledge to the table that clients wouldn’t have without them. The best clients create an environment that helps their agencies succeed.

Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Ulta Beauty, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Kaiser Permanente, Holland America Line, 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.