Are you thinking there is an agency review up ahead for your company in 2022?
The average tenure of agency relationships these days is roughly three years. For marketers with multiple agencies, that means that at almost any time there is an agency review being considered, is underway or has recently wrapped up.
The need for an agency review typically means that things simply aren’t working out as well as the marketer would like with their current agency. And if agency performance is disappointing, the marketer is likely getting a lower return on that investment than needed. Or it is harder and more disruptive to get to the work the client needs. But a review can be a mixed blessing as if the client does make a change, there is a period of onboarding and diminished productivity.
With all of this in mind, there are some key tasks marketers can do now to enhance their return on agency investment, in advance of (and even instead of) any reviews they are considering in 2022.
Here are 4 key activities that can be kicked off immediately that will help you deliver a better return on your agency investment in 2022 – with or without a review.
Kick Off a Client-Agency 360 Assessment Now
Many clients evaluate their agencies. Many agencies hire third parties to evaluate their performance on behalf of clients. Those are all good activities. These approaches are also missing a key element: the client-agency relationship is about the performance of both the agency AND the client. The role of the client is every bit as important (and perhaps more so) as the role of the agency.
Many of our clients are extraordinary partners to their agencies. In our work over the past thirty years leading hundreds of agency reviews we have also seen marketers that are, simply put, poor clients. They brief poorly, have unreasonable expectations, don’t respect the agency’s business model and often do not accept responsibility for an agency’s failings. They often give poor feedback on creative, media and other marketing recommendations. Approval processes are often ineffective and unproductive. Workflows can be poorly conceived and timelines inconsistent with an agency doing its best work.
What can a CMO or senior marketer do about that now, before a potentially unnecessary agency review?
Kick off an immediate client-agency 360 assessment. This 360 approach includes the agency evaluating the client (in addition to the client evaluating the agency). The ideal approach includes both qualitative feedback and quantitative grading and is administered by an objective and experienced third party. At Mercer Island group we have performed hundreds of these 360 evaluations, have a disciplined and thorough process and have norms available for context. Our video here convers our approach. There are also a number of other fine firms that offer this service. The key is to get going now! Clients need to know what role they play in their agencies’ effectiveness. Clients that are attentive to how they can be better partners get better work from their agencies.
Review Your Marketing Services Agency MSA Now
Most corporate MSAs lack important client and agency protections. And, even if your corporation has a marketing agency specific MSA, it is likely out of date if it was last updated before 2017. The world of Client-agency MSA best practices has changed dramatically in the past few years. Most corporate MSAs lack critical protections for the client in areas like media supply chain transparency, digital effectiveness, audit rights, data ownership and other areas. A review and updating effort can take 4-8 weeks and should be complete before any review is launched.
This is an important step with or without a review. We work with many of the top client-agency services law firms every year and would be happy to refer you to a firm that can help your company update its MSA.
Train Your Team
Successful marketing leaders today need effective proxies. The only way to develop effective proxies is to train your team to ensure they have the skills needed to be effective modern marketers.
Does your team effectively and consistently evaluate the agency’s work? If not, get them trained. The ability to effectively evaluate creative is not a genetic trait, and too few companies these days have effective training programs. Mercer Island Group and many other fine firms can help you train your team. An article on How to Evaluate Creative using Mercer Island group’s SOLVE methodology here is a good start.
Does your team give effective feedback to the agency? The effective delivery of constructive feedback to an agency is both art and science. This is another skill that is not well trained these days. Get your team trained and the work will be better, it will be developed more efficiently, and the agency will be happier and more productive. An article on How to Deliver Creative Feedback here is a good start.
Does your team run an effective creative review meeting with the agency? There is some fine advice regarding the Mercer Island Group approach to running effective creative review meetings here.
Does your team deliver effective briefs to the agency? Briefing is also a lost art. The client brief IS NOT the same as the creative brief. But it is also not a book long diatribe that includes all known facts about a product or campaign. Developing an effective briefing template, teaching your team how to establish sound and SMART business and marketing objectives and how to effectively conduct the briefing session are all skills that will enhance your firm’s return on agency investment.
Kick off a Regular Top to Top Call
We discussed the importance of the Top to Top call in last week’s blog here and discussed a recipe for the contents of the ideal Top to Top call. Do it now!
Recapping: The CMO To-Do List Before 2022 Agency Reviews
Whether there is an agency review in your future for 2022 or not, CMOs can get a jump on a more successful 2022.
- Kicking off a client-agency 360 performance assessment
- Updating the company’s marketing services MSA
- Training their teams to be better, more effective partners to their agencies
- Hold regular Top to Top calls with your agency partners
Get started now and enjoy a better return on agency investment in 2022.
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.