Birds of a feather flock together: tips for engaging a new agency partner

This post is by Kylie Ridler-Dutton, Marketing Management Consultant at TrinityP3. Kylie is a discipline neutral specialist with consulting and implementation experience spanning across retail, alcohol, utilities and telecommunications.

We have all heard the adage birds of a feather flock together, meaning that the company you keep reflects your personality. A smart person surrounds himself with other smart people:

Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself .

Edmund Lee

new agency

Unfortunately, as we go through this time , we realise the people we once counted on are no longer the people we once thought they were. Being guilty by association is another saying which extends the birds of a feather concept but this time with negative overtones.

The external observer will quickly associate your behaviours and thoughts with the people you hang out with. If your friends act in a negative way, you too will be bracketed unfavourably by association. Although this may not be true, it is all based on perception.

Regardless if you believe yourself to be an altruistic person, a time may come when your bad company starts to influence your good behaviour.

All too often this is the premise of the start of the conversation we as consultants at TrinityP3 hear when asked to discuss a pitch with a client: The agency started out all shiny and new and their reputation seemed to stack up, so what happened?

Your business starts to critically reflect on why you made  the decision to hire these guys? Often the business quickly back tracks and begins blaming the other party, the start of a very slippery slope.

Our Pitch

Our pitch process needs to start with strong foundations and that foundation is built from the information we gather before we start our market search for an agency partner.

The Pitch Brief

How about the saying if the shoe fits? One size fits all? Well this is not the case when looking for your new agency and hence why our process starts with the client brief. It is so important to get this first step right.

Naturally we hear “Well my boss has heard of Agency x, can we get them?” or “My mate told me about Agency Y”

Recently, we had a client of TrinityP3 who has a heavy spend in fast turn around retail work, so it was imperative their brief highlighted the need not only for a Studio that could handle the creative load, it also was of huge importance that they engage a strong and experienced GAD (Group Account Director).

This role needed to navigate the work through their creative department. The client had been in a situation previously where the push back from the creative department on the ‘churn and burn’ work led to frustration on both sides and tight deadlines became a stressful process.

The pitch requirement from the brief was to introduce early on, the proposed prospect for the GAD role. In some pitches, it may be agreed up front there would be a new hire specifically for this role and both parties would be involved in the hire.

Agency X might have been a hot creative shop however their ‘3 step’ studio sign off process for the brand work may not have handled the time frames required for this client.

The Budget

Disclosing assumed sensitive financial information often makes the writer of the brief jittery. However, the brief is not the RFP, at this point you want to give the candidates an idea of potential worth – will this make you a tier 1 client amongst their current client stable?

A top line indication to be discussed will allow up front transparency on the service model the agency can offer you.

Nuts and Bolts – Credentials

A lot of our clients are sceptical when an agency talks awards. There are many  awards in a variety of categories. Why wouldn’t you want an agency to win an award for proven effectiveness,meaning your business success?

It’s not just about the award – collaboration with a successful agency breeds success and other flow-on benefits.

Credentials allow the agency to highlight areas such as staff and their past experience. This may be advantageous to your business. The agency itself may not have worked specifically on a similar brief however the wealth of knowledge may easily be transferable.

The credentials really give you the basics – the strategic tools, the studio, the in house services vs out sourced resources, the departmental breakdown and how you can expect to be charged later on in the detailed RFP.

So we have laid the foundations during the pitch process and the client picks the suitable candidate to suit their requirements and the agency hopefully has a clear picture of expectation.

This is sometimes where we hand over. This is where we hope both parties will take the time in the initial phase of the relationship to bed down the rules of engagement.

Engagement

Our Engagement Agreements service is all about ensuring an agreed development process is truly achievable and adhered to.

The honeymoon period

The pitch is finished and now the work kicks off however you don’t know where to start so maybe you  just push out the brief and wait for the magic to happen. The problem is you may be expecting the new agency to work like the old agency and just ‘get it’.

This is where the relationship needs work, to set you up for success and to keep the other party motivated so you both have a positive relationship and share success. Bad communication is where things can fall apart, no matter how technically skilled both parties appear to be. If the environment is sour the relationship will follow suit.

Give the new team your brand history – the business plans, the guard book, the org chart, a tour of offices,  introduce the Procurement team and their processes. Without an engagement process how do they know the rules?

Workshop each other’s processes, participate in a knowledge and ideas exchange to learn about reciprocal  budgetary strategies. Share your biggest problem, what keeps you up at night? A problem shared can be a problem solved.

Agency Team – ask the questions, ask what success looks like, what are your pet hates? Show them your operation and how you make stuff happen. How do you make that shoe fit?

It is also important that both parties know the services you want to engage and the service boundaries so there are no misunderstandings with your agreed partnership.

Are there other suppliers you use? Is it clear what services the agency wants to offer? At Trinityp3, we often see issues arise and noses out of joint when the agency perceives that the client is cheating on them and using an outsider. Both parties need to be clear here.

You also need to share the agreement with all internal stakeholders to ensure the entire team know what to expect and how to play by the rules.

Are you ready to get started?

Hold that pending brief, if the engagement agreement isn’t done to ensure you all know the playing field, the new agency is going to be like a bunny in headlights! And you’re going to be that angry person on the other end of phone digging yourself an early grave!

So in a nutshell the steps should be:

1. Pitch Perfect – Get your requirements clear and share as much information as you can.

2. Prior Engagement – Get the engagement agreement in place and share it before you move forward.

3. Check In – review and evaluate quarterly how everyone is tracking.

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

Henry Ford

TrinityP3’s Relationship Performance Evaluation service measures collaboration and alignment between marketing team agencies, offering insight and recommendation to maximise your collaborative output.

Why do you need this service? Click here to learn more

About Kylie Ridler-Dutton

Kylie is a discipline neutral specialist with consulting and implementation experience spanning across retail, alcohol, utilities and telecommunications to name a few. Kylie has worked in various Agencies in both Melbourne and Sydney as a Client Services Director managing the development and implementation of a wide range of global brands over the past 18 years.

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