War and peace — managing the agency-client content marketing relationship
By Pete Winter

War and peace — managing the agency-client content marketing relationship

Stop flirting with your content marketing agency — have a loving relationship with them and get the most out of your marketing investment.

We all think about success metrics. Almost every day. We think about how can we make our clients successful. How can we deliver a successful content marketing strategy? How we can get better each time? How we can have a successful working relationship with our customers and partners?

Most companies want to find “the one”. An agency they can rely on during the tough times, as well as the good. An agency they can build an enduring relationship with. But, in practice, it can be hard to sustain.

Marketing consultancy R3 recently put the industry average for the length of a client-agency relationship at just 3.2 years. So it’s more important than ever to set the scene for a beautiful agency-client relationship the moment the ink dries on the contract.

What’s the golden ticket? Well, there might not be one. But a few things come to mind:

  • Education. This is the golden ticket. Do all parties have the right knowledge to embark on an agency relationship? What are the deliverables, the KPIs, and the method to get there?
  • Expectation. Do all parties know what the agency is delivering and isn’t delivering?
  • Transparency. Honesty is the best policy. Be clear, open, and quick. And involve everyone so we’re on the same page.
  • Planning. Once this falls down, everything does. Know your project plan inside out.

A content marketing agency needs to look beyond the mile markers on the customer journey, and explore the rainforest of opportunities around them. And that means taking an exceptional interest in you. How you work, what matters most to your success, your customers’ key drivers and motivators.

Your content marketing agency needs to be your competitive advantage. And that means not doing expected and not doing generic. That means some companies just aren’t a good fit for some agencies: you can’t please everyone, and it’d be foolish to try and do so.


Look beyond the tell-tale signs of the agency cliche

Offices with sleeping pods, climbing walls, and murals by Banksy may look great on The Drum or in your quest to become the next Mark Zuckerberg. But many of the content marketing agencies delivering the greatest bang-per-buck are less into beanbags, more into moneybags.

They’re focused on the fine details of your business ready to make your data work harder, reach a global audience, and manage the entire customer experience — from first touch to repeat sale and advocacy.

Remember that old adage? “There are no bad clients, only bad client relationships.” Well, something like that rings true, anyway…

What do successful advertising agencies, media agencies, and full-on content marketing agencies have in common? They’re all about the people.

No matter how smooth their strategy or competent their clickthroughs, any content marketing agency performs best when client and agency share strong personal ties.

When you engage a content marketing agency, you’re trusting them with the future of your business. So the best clients and agencies invest a lot of time in each other.

What are the common traits of the top 40 relationships?

  1. Look to new models. Global consultancy R3 said all cases had experimented and tried new ways of working, something needed in a constantly evolving industry.
  2. Face time matters. According to R3, despite the proliferation of technology, getting quality time in is the best way of resolving issues.
  3. Focus on outcomes, not inputs. R3 cited the recent McDonald’s and Omnicom agreement in praising the relationships that focus on mutually common objectives.
  4. Take digital seriously. The report says too many brands are “buying digital by the yard, not by the year” and they need partners for digital transformation.
  5. Immersion both ways. Both sides of the relationship need to properly understand each other’s business.
  6. Benchmark and evaluate. The advice is that global CMOs and agencies need to share a ‘Dashboard of Best Practice’ in order to always improve.

Top 5 takeaways to manage the client-agency relationship?

  1. You get what you give.
  2. Honesty, education, and transparency is the best policy.
  3. Don’t fear change.
  4. The little details make a big impact.
  5. Expect a little bit of growing pains.

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