Building a Successful Partnership with Your Agency

Jeff Speer

You’ve done the research, you’ve finished the vetting, you’ve settled on the scope and you’ve hired a marketing communications agency. You want a partnership that’s more than just a transaction — a collaboration that’s built on trust, quality, and a shared vision for success. Easier said than done, right? Merryman Communications has been fortunate enough to have success in this area. We’re in our 10th year of partnership with several companies, and many of our clients bring us with them when they leave for new opportunities. Read on for our perspective on creating a client/agency partnership that will deliver wins for everyone involved: you as the client, your team and ours, and the agency.

Provide Objectives, Not Simply Assignments

It’s very natural to hire an agency because you have an assignment in mind. You want to launch a new product, get more visibility, or increase engagement on social. However, you’ll get the most out of your marketing communications agency if you can answer two questions: What are you fundamentally trying to achieve for the business and what’s the business strategy? Are you trying to steal market share? Change perception of a category? Share those goals with your agency and get their ideas on how to achieve them. Think of your objectives as a target and the agency as navigator.

For example, we start every planning conversation by asking: “What does success look like and in what timeframe?” One client was trying to increase the pace of enrolling clinical trial participants within a year while another was trying to get internal alignment on brand strategy to help differentiate them from their competitors. Clarity on those specific goals and the business rationale for them helped us develop the right strategies and tactics to get to the destination.

You want a partnership that’s more than just a transaction — a collaboration that’s built on trust, quality, and a shared vision for success.

Share Your Workstyle Preferences

Behind every successful client/agency partnership lies a clear understanding of the best ways to work together. Chemistry and compatibility matter, and your agency can get there quicker if you open up early in the relationship. Tell them about your working style, how you give feedback, pet peeves and more. Do you prefer morning meetings? How much time do you or your organization need for initial and then medical/legal/regulatory reviews? One of our clients only needs a few business days for reviews while others need substantially more time. Understanding those details early helps us customize the program to meet our clients’ needs and expectations.

There are bound to be some missteps or moments with a little friction. The more your agency understands you, the better you can produce great work and have fun at the same time. And we all want to have fun.

You’ll get the most out of your marketing communications agency if you can answer two questions: What are you fundamentally trying to achieve for the business and what’s the business strategy?

Let’s Be Besties, Not Pen Pals

Emails have their place. However, much like how reading a review can’t replace watching a film, transactional communication isn’t enough. Consider your agency your marketing BFFs. The more you chat, brainstorm, and bounce ideas off each other, the stronger the bond, which will be reflected in the work. So, go beyond status checks in your meetings. Tell your partner what your leaders are talking about. Ask their perspective on something that’s been nagging at you. Find out if they have any new ideas you should consider.

And look for opportunities to be face-to-face. Your marketing and PR agency will benefit immensely from being with you at that national sales meeting or important conference where months of work are coming to fruition. They’ll become more familiar to your team and leaders and gain a more personal understanding of your business. And by doing so, the agency will become an extension of you, freeing up you and your team to do the things that only you can do.

The more your agency understands you, the better you can produce great work and have fun at the same time.

Help Them Help You

We expect to do the heavy lifting for our clients, and we can lift the most when clients are prepared at the onset to collaborate. We kick-off new engagements with “sponge sessions” so we start off right by getting detailed insights and answers to our questions. This collaboration continues when clients share established business and marketing plans and give us direct connections to their team (rather than making everything go through them) as we implement the program.

Of course, there is always room to improve so we ask our clients for regular feedback. Feedback is an agency’s fuel. Tell your marketing/communications agency what you love, what needs tweaking, what you disagree with and what makes you pump your fist in excitement. Your agency will thrive on your insights and guidance.

Tell your marketing/communications agency what you love, what needs tweaking, what you disagree with and what makes you pump your fist in excitement.

And that includes your insights on budgets. Lay your cards on the table so you and your agency partner can work together to develop the right program. Holding back budget parameters or expectations causes inefficiencies and frustration on both sides.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Though most people managing a marketing communications agency would agree with the content in this blog, it’s often overlooked or falls by the wayside. Everyone is busy and under pressure, so the focus simply becomes getting stuff done. Totally understandable. However, putting a little more time and attention into how you get stuff done can make the difference between having a long-lasting partnership, like many of our clients, or being on the hunt for a new agency in a year.

Your agency really does consider themselves part of your team. Keep that in mind and good things will follow.