This post is by Nathan Hodges, TrinityP3‘s General Manager. Nathan applies his knowledge and creativity to the specific challenges of marketing management, with a particular focus on team dynamics and behavioural change.
All marketing teams – naturally – want enthusiastic, committed and motivated agencies working alongside them to improve their business performance.
In attempting to get to that ideal end-state, however, marketing teams can underestimate – or miss completely – the effects their actions often have on the motivation of their existing agencies.
Here are seven of the easiest ways to demotivate an agency team. Have you ever been guilty of any of them?
Expanding the roster
Bored? Tired of working with the same few agencies every day? Not sure what you’re doing and a little afraid your agencies will find you out? Then get another agency on board! There are lots to choose from out there, and they’ll all be really nice to you – at least for the first few months, anyway.
If you don’t like making and owning your decisions, being clear in your briefing or being direct in your feedback, then this is the perfect demotivating technique for you. And it makes your existing agencies really nervous too. It’ll cost you around 10-15% of your spend for every agency you add to the roster, but fortunately not many people know that, so you should be fine.
Agreeing an inclusive retainer, then loading the agency with additional work
It helps if the additional work is spread across lots of tiny busy projects and trivial service requests for the broader agency team, as these seldom get the attention of the agency management until its too late to charge for it.
Or you could try making everything super-urgent and top priority all the time, so that the agency team is running at crisis speed, whilst you constantly complain about how slow the agency is in delivering.
Whichever one you choose, the real secret is to be vague, unrealistic or just plain mendacious about your scope of work at the start of the year. Or have no scope. You’ll get a tetchy, unprofitable agency in no time at all.
Starting projects, then stopping them halfway through
An old favourite, some might say, but very effective. Remember – the bigger and more exciting the project is at the start, the more effort the agency will put in upfront, and so the greater the disappointment when it gets abandoned.
Master demotivators will avoid making any financial commitment (‘we’ll sort that out later’) and will also make sure no clear decision to stop the project is communicated (‘it’s on hold for now, but we might return to it next year’).
Walking around saying the agency is very expensive
You don’t need to have any evidence for this, of course. A story about how much less your old agency used to charge for something vaguely similar in your last job will do. It will sow discord across agency staff and marketing team alike.
Just make sure no-one tries to benchmark anything, or even worse suggest that there might be a good reason for the costs being what they are (such as poor process for instance).
Sticking to one agency team member like glue
This one works best if the team member you stick to is someone creative. But anyone outside the immediate account team is good for this. If they’re not on the agreed resource plan, even better.
Start by insisting that he or she comes to ‘important meetings’ (so implying that all the other meetings aren’t important – nice move) and then expand from there. Try some of these choice phrases: ‘what does (insert name here) think of this?’; ‘has (name) seen this?’; ‘I really think (name) should be at the (presentation/briefing/product demo) to experience it first hand’.
Advanced demotivators will wait for a few months, then for no reason drop the favourite like a stone.
Telling your agency to collaborate (but not saying how, who with or to what end)
This one is commonly used both by demotivators and by normal people, the difference being that normal people have no idea of the demotivational power they are wielding.
Agencies are usually more than happy to collaborate if: 1) it is appropriate and helpful to do so (rather than co-operating or simply co-ordinating to get the job done; 2) there is a clear brief and desired outcome articulated by the marketing team; 3) the financial consequences of collaboration are clearly defined and positive for every party involved.
Remove any of these critical factors, and collaboration quickly becomes demotivation. Ninja demotivators will get rid of all three by asking something like ‘can’t you all just work together on this, for once?’
This is a killer demotivator. It never gets tired. For maximum effect, try slipping the news in casually, maybe right at the end of a long and foggy briefing session. Perhaps like this: ‘oh, by the way and just so you know, we’re also briefing (insert rival roster agency’s name here) on this, because they’ve got a different take on the business and we want to get their thinking on this too.
Good ideas do come from anywhere, after all! Now – go and get those creative juices flowing’.
So, that’s seven easy ones. How many did you get? And what have we missed?
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