Is your team managing your agency roster? (Probably not)

As marketers, you are most likely managing a roster of agencies: brand, direct, digital, social, PR, media, technology and more.

We are working on a client at the moment with over 100 agencies on their roster.

So whether you manage a few agencies, or a multitude, the question for this post is the same; is your team managing your agency roster or not?

What do I mean by managing?

I mean, successfully taking charge to bring about accomplishments.  

In order to accomplish something, you need to first be clear as to what you actually want to accomplish.

So maybe the first question should be; has your team clearly identified what needs to be achieved?

And if so, then how is the team managing your agencies to successfully achieve it?

Here are 4 areas to focus for successful roster management.

1. Has the team identified individual capability and skill-sets?

Once you’ve identified the desired accomplishment, you need to pick the team to deliver on it.

We regularly see marketers appoint external agencies and vendors to help fill capability gaps.

However, in doing so, they often rely heavily on the external party, and are quick to point the finger, and lay blame, at the agency if the accomplishment isn’t achieved.

Hence a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction, searching and conducting agency pitches, or simply appointing an agency that another manager has worked with and likes.

To be successful we recommend that internal capability is assessed and then related to the external capability.

This means getting clarity on each individual’s skill-set, relevant experience, and operating style.

Like any sporting team, often a collective of generalists can beat a team with one or two super stars. Simply because generalists can often be more cohesive, and therefore, more effective.

So it is important to look at the dynamics and interrelationships within internal and external teams.

2. Has the team established clear roles and responsibilities?

Once capability and skill-sets have been identified and related, it is critical to appoint clear roles and responsibilities.

With almost every roster project that we work on, we see a lack of clarity around agency roles and responsibilities.

It is regularly assumed that each agency will work on their area of expertise.

However, unfortunately the marketing and communications world is completely grey at the moment, with massive agency overlaps.

PR agencies are grabbing social, content and digital activations.

Media agencies are trying to own data, however, lack a clear picture of first party data, systems and insights.

Brand agencies are turning digital, and digital specialists are creating data-driven channel activity.

And content marketing and technology vendors are coming from their area of expertise to help tell and create better (and more frictionless) brand stories and experiences.

So the bottom line, is you need to have a clear scope of work, and get real clarity as to what roles are required and who is responsible for each area.

We worked on a project recently with a client and 3 of its specialist agencies.

There was significant duplication of effort, and a distinct lack of clarity of an agreed end-to-end process.

However, once we had interviewed each agency, and mapped the process, it was easy for the client to then make decisions and focus on clear roles and responsibilities.

We also identified opportunities to streamline the role of technology to automate parts of the process, overcoming pain points between agencies on the roster.

3. Has the team set effective working procedures?

Which leads me to this third area. Have you set effective working procedures to manage your roster of agencies?

This involves:

  • Structuring the roster and team model. Darren Woolley has written and spoken extensively on models and structures. Refer here for a few tips:
  • Setting a governance process for accountability, conflict escalation, decision making and compliance to standards
  • Identifying strategic versus executional requirements
  • Aligning performance metrics and common KPIs
  • Potentially associating a performance fee based on the common KPIs, that all agencies can be aligned to and incentivised on
  • Putting in feedback loops and multi-directional relationship measures

All of the above can be as simple or as complex as you require.

However, when we see complex working procedures we tend to see inefficiency.

This is due to teams focused on the procedures and administration leading them to take their eye off point one above: the desired accomplishment.

So in today’s human era, real and authentic marketing has broken through due to radical simplicity, candor and transparency. Strive to make sure that any procedures work for you, and your agencies in combination.

And avoid writing a lengthy procedures document that may look pretty, but which sits on the shelf, or lays hidden in a folder, and only serves to show evidence of industry rather than actually delivering the desired operational impact.

4. Has the team established aligned performance metrics?

This is mentioned above, however I wanted to pull it out as a specific point.

We see metrics galore.

Media engagement, dashboards, platform analytics, customer behavior, research etc etc.

Most of these metrics fail to align across the agency roster for the client in terms of value and performance.

They tend to serve as a validation of the agency’s work and are borne out of the channels managed rather than aligned to client interest.  Or better still consumer centricity.

So make sure that you:

  • Clearly establish performance metrics in consultation with each agency on your roster
  • Agree the metrics that matter most
  • Associate a performance fee for all agencies around common KPIs
  • Assign specific performance metrics for each agency – if required.

We assessed a client recently who had no awareness of key metrics that were being presented by their agency. In this case, the metrics hadn’t been agreed, and they hadn’t been uniformly aligned throughout the business and amongst the agency roster.

It was no wonder that everyone was a little confused as to what was being presented. Especially as the discussion didn’t even highlight any form of return on investment (ROI) metric.

To manage or not to manage

So, as always, thank you for reading.

And if you’d like to discuss specific areas of managing your agency roster in greater detail, then please feel free to drop us a line.

Are you a little perplexed as to managing your agency roster?

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