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Are you treating your agency partners like outsiders?

Trust matters. Even in the world of marketing. Especially in the world of marketing.

Nearly all advertising and marketing executives (98 percent, according to say that the best work happens when clients trust their agencies. Collaboration is key as well, according to 94 percent of agency folk and 100 percent of those on the client side, also according to If you can turn that trust and collaboration into long-term relationships, 84 percent of agencies and 81 percent of clients will be satisfied.

Let them in, and they will come (with good work)

Stop treating your agency partners like vendors and give them a real chance to be a partner. You’re hiring them to do good work; this means that they need to know intimate details. They need to have license to tell you your ideas aren’t, well, ideal. And to work with you to create better solutions. They need input that they can’t get as outsiders, and they need the position that allows them to challenge you.

Once you wipe egos aside and allow an agency to dissect your processes and hold people accountable (not take every criticism as a personal critique), your mission will quickly materialize as a shared mission for all. And a shared mission leads to better, more efficient work, smoother relationships and communications. If you find yourselves unable to allow that kind of “access” to an outside agency (and believe us, we know it ain’t easy!), hire a coach. It can help, especially if you meet with this coach regularly.

A truly open and transparent relationship with your agency injects positive tension into the system. We don’t always agree with each other, but dissonance with mutual respect is a powerful tool. And it gets better with age.

List of ways to challenge agency

Long-term relationships

As with any relationship, a client/agency union should get better with time. The longer you’re together, the better you’ll understand one another and the more unified the mission will become. There are three things that emerge from a long-term partnership that often don’t in the work-for-hire game.

  1. You hire an agency to bring an alternative perspective, to have a Mariana Trench-deep understanding of your business, your brand and your consumers. You want us to challenge you, but we only feel truly comfortable doing that if the partnership is ironclad.
  2. This, in many ways, is the most important aspect of a long-term gig. At an agency, the best talent wants to work on the best accounts. The best accounts are those that let us do the best work. The creative minds want to work on work they truly care about, and that happens naturally when there’s a level of intimacy with the client. In short, the longer we stay together, the more the “big guns” will take personal ownership of your vision.
  3. You collaborate with your agency, but your agency collaborates with the best sources and services to create the best work, and those collaborations bleed into your account like a beating heart. At Woodruff, we’re increasingly looking to partner with the likes of channel partners, platforms (Google, Facebook, etc.,) key influencers, opinion leaders, customers, consumers, sitting around a table working on either creative problems or growth-driving initiatives. When our collaborations all work in the service of being the best we possibly can be for you, that’s when the magic happens.

Play nice in the sandbox

Speaking of collaboration. We’re no dummies. We understand that we’re often not the only agency you’re cozying up to. And while we’d love to be jealous, instead we prefer openness and transparency from all parties. Collaboration across agency partners is not only preferred, it’s essential. Just like we need you to let us challenge you, we need to let your other partners challenge us. Make us jealous, and we’ll raise our game. We expect you, the client, to experiment with how we all might push each other with innovative ideas, but you also need to have tight control over budgets, relationships, etc. Your agency partners must be able to collaborate, work with you, or integrate with other agency partners. The goal is to foster effective internal and external teams across all your projects.

The new era

The universe of marketing changes quickly and constantly. And with so many new technologies and methods for your audience to consume information, it’s more complicated than ever. The customer journey is the most important thing to consider, and in this brave new world, you need co-pilots and joint responsibility to ensure that your message gets not only heard but heard the right way by the right people. Let’s do it together.