This post is by Stephan Argent, President of Marketing and Agency Search advisory Listenmore, and a member of the Marketing FIRST Forum, the global consulting collective co-founded by TrinityP3.
Whether you’re managing your existing agency relationships or trying to decide how many and what kind of agencies you need on your roster for future needs, any marketer with multiple agencies has likely encountered challenges trying to manage each relationship individually, while ensuring and maintaining collaboration across teams.
No matter how adept your agency relationship management skills, chances are multiple agency relationships – at one stage or another – have been the cause of multiple headaches.
Each agency requires its own contract. Each agency requires its own go-to resources. Each agency needs to understand its place and role within your marketing ecosystem. And each agency needs to be able to perform to the very best of their ability if they’re going to add real value to your business.
Turf wars, competing strategies, strategic or creative bottlenecks, misaligned creative output and unnecessary finger-pointing, can all contribute to marketers reaching for the Advil.
Unfortunately, the proliferation of marketing choice and specialist requirements make it very difficult to find a utopian solution in which you can place all your marketing activities neatly under one roof. Marketers typically find themselves needing to reevaluate their agency roster choices when they have:
- Made changes to their scopes of work across individual agencies
- Implemented significant changes to their business or marketing strategies
- Experienced turbulence in their existing agency roster line-up
- Undergone organisational or resource changes
- Realised incumbent agencies have acquired overlapping responsibilities
- Determined agency fees or retainer structures have become unsustainable
But how do you streamline your agency roster, while ensuring marketing efficiency and value from each of your agencies?
Irrespective of the number of agencies you may have within your roster, any marketer looking to evaluate or streamline their rosters should consider the following steps:
Define key requirements
Taking stock of and defining your own requirements is step one. In our experience, very few clients have clearly articulated marketing plans, matched to strategic or executional requirements for the current year – much less the years ahead. Defining those requirements across all aspects of your business (and agencies) is essential because without it your agency roster cannot be defined.
Evaluate current capabilities
Once requirements are defined, marketers can then evaluate the capabilities of their incumbent agencies as well as their own internal organisations to determine what services are successfully covered, what’s missing or whether there are deficiencies that need to be addressed.
Where there are deficiencies, deeper agency evaluation may be required to address shortcomings and / or determine whether different agencies are required.
In house or outsource?
Based on requirements, your evaluation of your incumbent agencies and your in-house capabilities, marketers then need to assess whether each of the services identified can (or should) be undertaken internally or externally.
Capabilities aside, marketers must also consider in-sourcing feasibility and whether headcount and budget can be allocated over the long-term. While in-sourcing may seem appealing in the short-term, it can create very real shortfalls in marketing capabilities if resources have to be cut-back later and there are no agencies to support requirements.
And speaking of budgets…at some point marketers must weigh the value of services each agency brings to the table. As we’ve said so many times previously, this does not necessarily mean the lowest price represents the best value.
Evaluating agency rosters offers marketers the opportunity to assess value and benchmark costs against market rates. While this may provide an added data point for evaluation – it should not be the only point or trigger for roster management.
The ultimate goal for marketers must be to identify the optimal mix of agencies balanced against sustainable internal resources. In doing so, marketers can reduce inefficiencies, eliminate duplication and streamline processes and costs, creating a stronger, more collaborative agency roster.
So whether this has relieved a headache, or started a new one, an independent viewpoint will help ease your agency roster pains for a long time to come.
Our Strategic Supplier Alignment service helps you to untangle your supplier roster and understand its strengths and weaknesses to improve your performance. Find out more