Many people use terms such as performance, relationship and collaboration interchangeably and yet there are important distinctions between them. All three are important in the management and optimization of the agency / marketers interaction but each one is measuring a different, perhaps subtle, but important attribute of this interaction.
The most common and certainly the most basic of all the interaction measures is Performance Benchmarking. This typically takes the form of a scorecard of the agencies performance completed by the marketers and a regular basis. The criteria for the scorecard are based on measuring the essential performance attributes required by the marketer of the agency. It is a one-dimensional measure in that it does not recognize the role of co-creation in the interaction and does not provide a measure of the marketer’s performance or influence in the interaction.
Relationship Benchmarking is a two dimensional measure which recognizes the role and influence of both parties on the performance and quality of the interactions. It is sometimes mistakenly termed a 360º methodology, but because it typically looks at the relationship between two parties, typically the marketer and one of the agencies, it is more correctly a two dimensional measure. The criteria here is to measure the attributes of the relationship that encourage more efficient and effective interactions between the two parties, rather than simply the performance of the roles and functions of each of the individual parties in the relationship.
Collaboration Benchmarking is typically a measure of the alignment of two or more groups or parties to a set of objectives, values, cultures or philosophies. This is essential when two or more organisations are working together to a common goal such as a marketing team and any number of agencies that are working interdependently in developing and executing the marketing communications plan. Therefore the criteria is typically measuring the underlying desired attributes that bring about the alignment between what is often disparate groups culturally who are trying to align to the common goals. Developing collaboration between two parties is relatively simple and is often a component of most relationship management and optimization processes. However, marketers are more often engaging multiple agencies to execute their marketing communications plans, therefore collaboration benchmarking is often multidimensional in nature.
The interactions between marketers and their agencies are becoming more complex and being able to benchmark these interactions is important. However, it is important to distinguish the difference between collaboration, relationships and performance benchmarking to ensure you are optimizing the most appropriate criteria in the process.