Don’t divorce your agency when you can simply change the place settings at the bridal table

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3With 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.

Have you ever had to organise a wedding?

Recently hearing about the challenges a couple were facing with the seating arrangements at the bridal table, not to mention the seating for the guests, it sounded like the proverbial Gordian Knot.

Past relationships and current emotions meant that while the bride and groom wanted all of the extensive bridal party there, they had to carefully consider not only which bridesmaid was paired with which groomsman but also how and where they were seated at the bridal table to minimise the awkwardness and potential conflict that could arise when the champagne started flowing.

A world record wedding has taken place at Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate North Yorkshire. Amy Ewing and Alex Simmonds smashed the previous Guiness World record for Bridesmaids and Ushers by having a massive 136 Bridesmaids and 97 Ushers (Photo: Ross Parry / SWNS) http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/gallery/record-wedding-5218177

A world record wedding has taken place at Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate North Yorkshire. Amy Ewing and Alex Simmonds smashed the previous Guinness World record for Bridesmaids and Ushers by having a massive 136 Bridesmaids and 97 Ushers (Photo: Ross Parry / SWNS)
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/gallery/record-wedding-5218177

The discussions on this between the bride and groom became so heated at times as both had different perspectives on their respective friends and their pasts. Some in the family thought that the bridal table seating could lead to divorce before they even walked down the aisle.

More importantly, neither wanted one of their friends to miss out on being part of the bridal party on the day.

It made me think about the struggles that some marketers are facing when they are trying to organise their agency roster. The agencies are on the roster for a range of reasons and the marketer wants them all there, but it just does not seem to be working.

It is in circumstances like this that we effectively become Wedding Planners and Relationship Guidance Counsellors. Let me explain.

The art of selecting the bridal party

The first decision is who do you really want in your bridal party? Typically you usually want those people closest to you – family and friends. But if we are talking about an agency roster, sure, beyond those closest to you, that is who understand you and are aligned to your values, the agencies also must have the skills and capabilities you need.

The next decision is the size of your bridal party. This is easy if you only have a few very close family and friends, but you also do not want to end up with a huge group that takes all your time to manage and organise, much like your agency roster. The more agencies on the roster the more time it will take managing them and trying to get them aligned and working together.

Just like a bridal party, you would hope that everyone involved is there with the best intentions, that is to ensure the bride and groom enjoy a fantastic and memorable day. But also like a bridal party it is made up of a number of individuals, who bring their own ideas, experiences and expectations to the party, which are not always aligned.

The larger the bridal party, the greater the diversity of ideas and expectations and the more care and attention the bride and groom need to take in managing the outcome.

Therefore the right number for the bridal party is as many people as you must invite to join and as minimal as possible to make it manageable. Of course you do not want to leave anyone out who will be offended, just as you do not want to drop an agency from your roster who has been loyal and hard working either.

It is simply a matter of working with the circumstances you face to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved. But ultimately it is the bride and groom’s special day and so everyone should be aligned to delivering that outcome.

The placement at the bridal table

Once you have the bridal party decided it is also a matter of allocating responsibilities. For the bride there is her Matron of Honour, her Head Bridesmaid and then Bridesmaids. For the groom there is the Best Man and then the Grooms Men and Ushers. Plus you may also have Flower Girls and Page Boys too.

Likewise the next step is assigning roles and responsibilities. You need to carefully consider not just who is best for the task based on their experience and expertise, but also how each fits into the overall structure of the roster and the interactions and reaction this will cause.

Imagine asking the wrong person to be your Head Bridesmaid, Matron of Honour or Best Man – there could be more than a few noses out of joint. Likewise, appoint the wrong person to lead or manage your bridal party and it can have a profound impact on the tone, manner and style of the Wedding celebrations.

While all of these are personal decisions, it is certainly worthwhile getting objective, independent and professional advice to help you work through the options and make decisions that will result in the best possible outcome with minimal disruption and pain.

We understand that nobody sets out to create this type of problem for themselves. It is simply a matter of needing to deal with the situation as you find it.

Be it due to legacy relationships that you have inherited (relatives you have to include) or changing circumstances and needs (dear old friends you have outgrown) it is important to design a solution that accommodates all of the needs, practical and emotional.

Making sure the day goes brilliantly

Fingers crossed that the wedding day celebrations go off with out a hitch and everyone has a fabulous time. Lets hope the cars arrive on time. That the dresses fit. The grumpy flower girl remembers to smile in all of the photographs and that the butter fingers page boy does not drop or lose the rings.

But an agency roster is more than one day and you need to make sure you do more than cross your fingers and hope for the best. This includes:

  1. Regular review of not just the individual agency performance but also how all of the agencies are working together
  2. Reviewing the needs and requirements of the marketing strategy and redefining the roles and responsibilities of each of the agencies
  3. Developing shared performance metrics for all of your key agencies to ensure strategic alignment

It is an on-going process, just like managing any relationship, just more complicated.

How is your bridal party looking?

Of course there is a big difference between a wedding and working with your roster of agencies.

The wedding day is only one day, and even with the lead up to the wedding it is at the most a month or two, but the memories last a lifetime. Your roster of agencies works together hopefully for years, which is a strong reason for getting the size, mix and arrangement right.

For the past decade we have been helping marketers align and organise their roster of agencies and marketing suppliers. These rosters have been as small as six and in one case more than two thousand. Yes that was not a mistake. But because it was all done without a single pitch in most cases it is never reported in the trade media and therefore you have probably never heard about any of these.

It is unfortunate that the trade media are obsessed with agency pitches (just as agencies are themselves) but less than 10% of the work we do with our advertiser, marketing and procurement clients involves a pitch, yet that seems to be what they love to report on.

If your agency roster is not looking like a fun wedding party and you are not sure what to do, we can help you and it will most likely mean you don’t have to pitch. So it is probably worth the conversation, right?

TrinityP3’s Strategic Supplier Alignment service helps you to untangle your supplier roster, understand its strengths and weaknesses, and develop an optimal structure to improve your performance.

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

About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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