This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3. With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.
There are many different ways that marketers and procurement evaluate and manage agency relationships. In the past three weeks while travelling through the USA, Canada and the UK, it became clear that for all the various systems available on the market, there are only really five different approaches.
- The discussion – where the agency head sits with the marketing head and they discuss the issues.
- The score card – where a performance score card for the agency is scored by the marketing team and the results shared.
- The gap analysis – where the client scores the agency and the agency assesses their own performance and the gap between the two is evaluated.
- The shared score card – where the agency and the marketing team score each other against a set of common criteria.
- The open, shared multi-agency score card – where all of the agencies and the marketing team all score each other against a set of common criteria.
It was interesting, when speaking with various marketers and procurement teams, to see how they undertake their agency relationship evaluations and that each process seems to have an underlying approach to managing their agencies.
It got me wondering if the choice of a particular agency relationship evaluation approach was indicative of a particular style of management.
Recently I posted on the various metaphors used to classify the way marketers manage their agencies and I will refer to these here.
So here goes some hypothesis to be discussed and tested. I look forward to your feedback and input into this.
“Off with their head” shouts the marketing royal. The agency sits in shock. The relationship had appeared to be on track. After all there were no complaints. Then out of the blue, this hits them like a ton of bricks.
This often ad-hoc (even though the intention is to be regular) feedback and review is the sign of command and control. The King of the court sits in judgement. Largely tactical in execution, the agenda is set by the King and executed on the serfs on a whim.
This is the ultimate power play on the agency to reinforce who is really in control here. The sad part is that marketers who use this approach often convince themselves it is a fair and manageable approach. But no matter the intent, without structure and defined process, it is basically a pure expression of command and control.
Like a panel of judges sitting in judgement on the competitors in a sporting event. The agency lines up to have their performance judged by the marketers.
At least the criteria is set and known by the agency, so they are able to focus on how to maximise their score. This is why setting the right criteria is so important. But the process assumes that the performance of the agency is completely in their control. Like the diver or the gymnast or the ice skater, the agency is performing for the judges.
The fact is that the agency performance is actually dependent on the marketer’s performance. They are interdependent. Don’t believe me? Then how can the same agency do great work and deliver great results for one client and totally the opposite for another client?
Judging your agency for anything more than their most basic skills and capabilities is simply passing the buck and avoiding the mutual responsibility of the underperformance.
There are quite a few marketers that love the gap analysis because it is a 360 degree approach to agency relationship evaluation. But what does this mean? The marketer scores the agency and the agency scores themselves and we study the gap between the two.
The focus here is usually more on the gap than the actual score. It is a passive aggressive power game. Where the marketer’s perception of the agency is compared with the agency’s perception of themselves and everyone focuses on closing the gap – which is usually making the agency ‘realise’ they are way out of step with the power in this game.
Shared two way score card
This is where two parties sit down and compare and discuss each others performance against a common and equal set of criteria. A balanced and equal score card of performance that focuses on the way they work together and acknowledges that the results they produce are interdependent on the performance of each party.
This requires a high level of trust and emotional maturity from both parties. Because each party recognises the other’s contribution as important. Accepting this is a huge reflection of your management style, because it minimises the opportunities to leverage the power game of the buyer over the supplier.
Open, shared, multi-agency / client score card
Taking that one step further is when the marketer not only recognises and acknowledges one agency, but many agencies working in partnership together. It is creating a circle of trust between those agencies and the marketing team, which is the basis of collaboration, cooperation and coordination.
Again, creating a level playing field of evaluation between all stakeholder groups – agencies and marketing teams – you are able to assess where these groups are working together well and where there are issues. This is the fundamental difference between this approach and the rest.
The others measure agency performance alone. They are often nothing more than a tricked up score card of agency performance. That is fine if you see your agency as a supplier or vendor simply delivering a service. But for those agencies that work with the marketing team to co-create marketing and communications strategy and implement it, then the performance measure lacks dimension.
Instead, this approach is used by those who embrace and encourage true collaboration.
Which agency relationship evaluation are you?
Do you have an agency relationship evaluation process? Or are you considering one? There is no right or wrong approach. But perhaps you should consider what it says about your management style when you are selecting the approach right for you.
So which one are you?