Working with an Agency – Building a Relationship

By March 13, 2020July 10th, 2020No Comments

When you hire an agency to work with you to help market your business, that can be a big investment – at least proportional to the size of your business.  If it’s your first time working with an agency, it’s even scarier (sometimes, you may not even need to hire an agency).  The best agency for you is one that you can have a successful long-term relationship with.  There are agencies out there that are great to work with and good at what they do, and there are some agencies that churn and burn clients.  Make sure you do your due diligence before hiring.  But when you find an agency you think you can work well with, here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of that relationship.

Set Realistic Expectations

One thing that kills so many agency relationships is that there are unrealistic expectations. If an agency promises or a company expects results for an SEO campaign in the first month or two, there is going to be some serious disappointment.  It will usually take 6 months to a year to get solid results for SEO.

But beyond results, there are many expectations to be thought through.  Who is going to be responsible for idea generation and strategy?  Development of content?  How many meetings are you going to need to have in a given month?  How detailed is reporting?  Many of these elements are determined in a Scope of Work, but not always.  Make sure expectations are clear – and realistic.  If you’re looking for strategy development and a meeting every month outside of the physical deliverables of a campaign, you can’t expect the cost to be $500.  Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the full scope of service.

Like the old saying goes, you can pick two: cheap, fast, high-quality.  You can’t have all three, so choose wisely.

Trust Your Agency

First of all, if you don’t feel like you can trust your agency, you probably picked the wrong agency.  You need to find a new partner right away.

Of course, you can’t trust an agency fully in the first instant.  Trust takes time to build.  You may have been burned by a previous agency.  It may be the first time you’re working with an agency at all.  Of course, if that’s the case then it’s not a lack of trust with the specific agency, it’s that you just need to develop the trust further.

Most agencies have been doing this for a while, a few years at least.  They’ve seen a lot, and it’s their job to be on top of trends.  If they recommend certain timing, there’s a reason.  If they don’t think people will react well to a certain concept, there’s probably a reason.  Of course, you may have information about your industry that the agency doesn’t have, and you should absolutely speak up.  There’s a difference, though, between available information and trust.

Micromanaging an agency is going to make things very difficult.  It’s going to drive costs up, stifle creativity, and 9 times out of 10 result in less successful campaigns.  If you’re paying your agency a good amount of money, it’s because you believe they are good at what they do.  Let them go ahead and do it (again, assuming you have the right agency – one you can trust).

Limit the Number of Meetings

The more meetings you have, the less time the agency is going to have to work on your campaigns.  Or, the more it’s going to cost you.  Either way, excessive meetings aren’t helpful.

Good meetings, however, are very helpful.  Most often one good meeting can eliminate multiple other meetings.  And we all know, 75% of meetings can probably be handled in an email!  So be effective with your meetings.  Have a plan going into the meeting about what needs to be covered ahead of time so that people can prep and come with the necessary information, and send a follow-up after the meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page (this goes for agencies as well as partner companies).


Agencies need to understand that the client likely knows their business better than someone from the outside.  Companies need to understand that agencies understand marketing, especially within a specific focus area (marketing specialty or niche), at a very high level.  Both sides need to come to the table listening to the other side in order to create successful campaigns.

If an agency says that they are very apprehensive about a technique or direction, it is probably because they have experience and knowledge that has shown it isn’t a good idea.  If a client says that they are apprehensive about messaging for a campaign, it’s probably because they know how their customers will react to something based on past experiences.

Never steamroll an idea.  That’s a surefire way to break down trust and a relationship.  Look to see where the other side is coming from, voice specific reasons for concern, and try to find a solution that addresses the concerns while utilizing the expertise of all parties involved.

Keep the Long Term in Mind

Marketing is a long-term game and needs a long-term partnership.  Goals and strategies need to be created with the end game in mind.  Short-term or month-by-month contracts go against the spirit of what is needed.  Typically, it results in an agency consistently fighting for short term gains, which will almost always come at the expense of long-term wins.  But, they have to because they’re under the threat of being fired every month.

Create plans and goals for the long term, and create a relationship that keeps that in mind.  Nobody can create a campaign that hits the mark every time (remember the Planters Baby Peanut campaign?).  As long as things are moving forward with a general positive trend, keep moving forward – until a time comes when it is clear the relationship or results are breaking down beyond repair.

It All Comes Back to the Right Partner

While there are a lot of things you can do to help build a relationship, you need to find the right partner to begin with.  You’re much better off spending the extra time to make sure you’re hiring the right agency than you are to hire quickly and have to repeat the process multiple times (and agencies are much better off admitting out of the gate if something is out of their wheelhouse – for their own long term good).  If you’re looking for a partner, even if it’s out of our wheelhouse, let us know.  We work with a large number of partner agencies that we trust and can point you in the right direction.

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