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What marketers should be asking their incumbent agencies

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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.

I love it when a client says to me… “we’ve never thought of asking our agency that…”

More often than not, it’s the questions that haven’t been asked that can be hugely valuable in assessing your current agency’s thought leadership capabilities and willingness to collaborate to form a better relationship.

Whether or not you’re contemplating an agency search, or undertaking an agency evaluation process, here are five questions worth asking that can be quite revealing.  (And yes, the answers might surprise you):

What’s your vision for your agency two or three years from now?

Why this is important: Essentially what you’re asking here is “what’s your vision for the communications business for the foreseeable future?” and a good answer should give you a window into some of the things you and your team should be thinking about. These should be thought provoking comments that really make you think whether you and your teams are structured for success.

Who are the real thought leaders in your agency we should be following on social media?

Why this is important: Your question here is two-fold. First, you’re asking where the real thought leadership in the agency is coming from;  Is it in their strategy department?  Is it in Social leadership? Or is it coming from somewhere else (and why aren’t they on your business…)?

Second, you’re asking about the caliber of thought leadership within the agency as a whole.  If (God forbid) the answer is “– er… no.” you should probably ask, “why not…?

What do you think of our current contract – how should we improve it?

Why this is important: Your question here is really about collaboration. Yes, there’ll be obvious “why do you ask…?” or “yes – we’d like a bigger retainer, please…” but what you’re fishing for is the real contribution being made to your business.

A smart answer might be something like “we’ve made a significant contribution to your business and we’d like to structure a pay for performance agreement that enables a win-win for both of us…” or even “let’s re-work what we’ve got so the contract is better tailored to your company’s key objectives this year…

How do you think you’re collaborating with our team and our other agencies?

Why this is important: What you’re asking is self-awareness of the role the agency is playing within your broader marketing ecosystem. If the answer is, “we don’t know we never talk to X or Y…” it’s an indication broader collaboration is needed.  If it’s “good” and you know it’s bad, you should be considering evaluation mechanisms or even a review to make things better.

How are your other clients integrating brand and digital initiatives?

Why this is important: It gives you insight and a benchmark as to how other clients are (or aren’t) pushing your agency to really integrate brand and digital communications. Strong emphasis from other clients should give you confidence your agency is ahead of the curve in ensuring your initiatives have a truly multi-dimensional perspective.

These are some great questions to get you and your agencies thinking.  Whether or not they’re right for you – the point is, thoughtful questions can provide valuable insight into the health of your agency’s relationship and how well they’re positioned to drive your business.

So what should you be asking your incumbent agencies?

Our Relationship Performance Evaluation service measures collaboration and alignment between marketing team agencies to maximise your collaborative output. Learn more here

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Stephan Argent is a former agency planner from England, and has held senior roles in agencies in both Canada and the United States. Most recently he was Vice President of Digital Media at CTV, and is now President of Canada’s leading independent Marketing and Agency Search advisory and consultancy: ListenMore

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