You want an agency collaborator that has your business’ best interest in mind – one that delivers more than the status quo. And so, in your conversations with your agency, listen for constructive objections – don’t only look for trophies, awards, and other vanity metrics. Those things are great, but they aren’t indicative of a successful client-agency partnership.
The Word No is Not a Roadblock.
It’s an opportunity to pivot, do better, and push your brand and business further. With just two letters and one syllable, no may very well be the most dynamic word in the English language.
If you’ve heard no from an agency partner, it may have left you feeling frustrated and maybe a little bewildered. It’s a fair reaction, but before you get your back up, we want to share a little insider perspective:
Their Reputation. Your Results.
Every business – agencies included – know what they’re best at, great at, just good at, and mediocre at. You want them doing their best work for you, not winging it when it matters most.
Learn to expect honest counsel from your agency. After all, you hired them for a reason, right? Agencies that are truly focused on partnering with their clients and genuinely want to add value will say no to you – but with good reason. It may be that they believe a certain direction is a waste of your investment, or of time and brainpower. Or, it may be that it’s outside of their wheelhouse.
But a great agency won’t leave you hanging. They’ll show up with solutions and alternatives on how to turn the original idea into something more successful.
How to Be More Collaborative with Your Agency:
If you want a partner that is more than simply an execution shop, recognize that disagreements are going to come up once or twice (maybe more). It doesn’t mean that your agency is trying to be difficult.
Next, set the stage for a successful partnership:
1. Reinforce that you want honest evaluation:
Do not ask your agency to execute on ideas that your team vetoed internally. That’s not setting anyone up for a win-win.
Be upfront that you want to stress-test all ideas, no matter who they’re from, and tell them that you’re comfortable with healthy debates because they make the work better.
Clarify that you want them to take the lead on this honest feedback and advise that you’ll reciprocate by providing your critique on their pitches and work as well. This bring us to our next point:
2. Create a feedback loop – sharing is caring (about the work):
Establish a process that works for you and your agency. Not sure where to start? Let them take the lead – ask your agency what they have found to be the most efficient and impactful process for collecting and delivering feedback. You’ll also want to know how they review and measure the impact of their consulting work.
If you’re someone who likes to keep tabs, you can begin by taking note internally when your agency collaborator says yes and when they say no. Watch for how they go about each discussion and how they (do or do not) meet your reaction with reassurance and real solutions.
3. Ask for references:
It’s not unreasonable to ask your agency to be connected with one of their long-standing clients to speak with them about the agency’s management and consulting style.
While you have their ear, be sure to ask about a time when the agency challenged them on an idea, strategy, or specific request, and what the result was for the business and the client-agency relationship.
Responsible Agencies and Their Teams Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Decline Your Requests.
While hearing no from your agency may cause you to take pause, remember that it’s a critical element of agency selection that clients often miss – and one you should watch for in your existing agency relationship.
If yes is your agency’s only go-to, it may be time to reevaluate your partnership and look for a shop to take your brand to the next level.
For help navigating the nuts and bolts of the switching process, read our post How to Switch Agencies: A Guide for Clients.