It’s no secret that the agency-client relationship is built on shaky ground.With new advancements like machine learning and programmatic ads, it becomes even more essential to trust your media partner. If the right parameters aren’t set, and if neither side does their due diligence to make the relationship work, then it is destined to fail. Marketers entrust in their partners the ability to make a measurable impact from digital ad spend, and provide optimal viewability, protection from ad fraud, and overall brand safety.
For the agency, a lot of things can go wrong with damaging consequences. It’s no surprise to see, then, so many marketers switching their vendors in the past few years.
There’s no definitive answer as to which vendor wil be best for you because every client has their own priorities, goals, and initiatives. But, there are a few common attributes that span across all successful partnerships.
We’ll identify these attributes and discuss the steps that both brands and agencies can take to build great business relationships.
Set Expectations on Both Sides
Before venturing into any media partnership, it’s important to set realistic expectations, establish a plan of action to meet those expectations, and determine how to evaluate the success of the relationship. Both the agency and the client should discuss how past partnership issues were addressed and agree on consequences for future issues.
While it might seem uncomfortable to even broach the topic, there can never be too much communication between parties where so much human and financial capital is invested. In the digital media ecosystem especially, where some of the most well-known agencies are accused of unethical practices, you can never be too careful. This also underscores the importance of cultural alignment with vendors.
Transparency, Trust, Alignment, and Unity
These are the elements of long-lasting, flourishing partnerships.
Transparency is something that, over the past few years, has been compromised at the expense of speed and efficiency. Mutual evaluation and performance reports are more necessary than ever to initiate dialogue between both parties and build trust through open and honest feedback. 98% of clients believe the best work comes forth when clients can trust their agency. It is the cornerstone of any relationship.
Yet, there is a growing mistrust of media partners stemming from how data is shared– specifically, how campaign performance is measured and presented to the client. In a PRDaily survey, only 23 percent of B2C marketers could successfully track their ROI on content marketing efforts. Too many vendors focus on “vanity metrics” – surface-level numbers that look good on paper, but don’t actually correlate to business success.
In the early stages of a campaign, it’s vital to have that performance data easily accessible. Remember that this data defines your audience and their relationship with your brand. Make sure that you record any actionable insights you can gain from this analysis. The data will allow you to implement more advanced audience targeting tactics, such as look-alike modeling, and gives you the insight to invest more resources into sites you know are performing well.
4 Keys to Success for Vendors
We've identified four keys to success that will cultivate a harmonious vendor relationship and ensure every media dollar is well spent.
1. Customer-centric Philosophy
A larger agency does not guarantee more dedicated resources for your campaign. A Wordstream survey of marketing agencies found that 31% admitted to not having full-time employees dedicated to their clients’ paid search campaigns. A personal account management team that can set aside the appropriate time and effort each day keeps the lines of communication open and clients’ minds at ease.
2. Custom Campaigns
Beware of vendors using a “cookie-cutter” strategy. The agency finds a similar client in your industry, draws up a plan based on what’s worked in the past, and uses this as a blueprint for multiple other clients.
No matter their number of years of industry experience, agencies need to understand that every client is different, with their own metrics, goals, and history of success. Every account requires rigorous testing to truly understand the clients’ audience, and to gain enough data to optimize the channels that are most effective.
3. Industry Expertise
Vendors should be bringing new ideas to the table and keeping you informed of the latest industry trends, advancements, and capabilities. They should utilize the relevant platforms and data providers to get you as close as possible to your audience’s environment. Look for 2nd and 3rd party data partners who can provide demographic and behavioral data to reach your target audience at scale.
Failure to adapt is one of the main reasons why a partnership fails. Here are a few reasons why an agency would be prompted to take a renewed approach to a strategy:
- Rapid brand growth
- Organizational redesign
- New marketing technology
- Industry disruption
- New product development
Digital marketing efforts can now be measured in more sophisticated ways than ever before. Because marketing is an essential part of any business, it needs to show a tangible return on investment. A 2018 study from Tune showed that 2,300 marketers advocate for a switch to performance-based relationships citing flexibility and decreased risks as two of the key benefits.
As traditional, rigid agency practices become a thing of the past, performance-based pricing models are becoming more popular. With a clear communication plan, the right partnership qualities, and a pricing model based around mutual success, you can ensure long-term growth for both agency and brand.