Defining an ad agency “partner”

Two quick things before we get started. First, today’s post is inspired by Sarah Cheal, a new business professional from across the pond. She read an earlier post and thought it begged for expansion. An excellent idea! We connected via Twitter. Ya gotta dig social media.

And #2, another reason to dig social media, particularly WordPress. You, fair reader, will peruse this on Tuesday. Yet it’s being started on a Saturday morning – halfway through the first cup o’ joe. Huge flakes of snow are falling outside the window of our humble bungalow. Just enough to look terrific. But you can hear the scrape of neighbors’ shovels. And this writing helps me put off the inevitable trudge outside to “put my back into it!”

Anywho, the earlier post hints at what defines good client / agency partnership. The post also suggests that partnership, as a business practice, could be a part of an agency’s elevator speech or your agency’s positioning.

This “partner” word is thrown around an awful lot in our business. Unfortunately, that leads to it becoming less valued. Not special. Harder to believe.  The bullshit detectors go off in prospect’s minds.

Say the word, though, and you’d better be able to back it up. So here are some just a few questions whose answers can provide you with some support:

  • How long do you keep your clients? “Partner” agencies typically tend to have long lasting tenures. Many, many years.
  • How many client staff changes have you survived? As an account guy, I saw this at Shell/Ogilvy and Coors/FCB. Both are 30 year+ relationships. The agencies were the brand stewards. AKA partners.
  • Can you finish your client’s thoughts? How does that manifest itself in your relationship (fewer changes to briefs, less time needed for clients to give you initial direction)
  • How often do you help your day-to-day client sell in work to their senior team (C suite, etc.)
  • What examples of true idea synergy, 1 + 1 = 3, can you demonstrate between the parties?
  • How do you transfer brand, client, category knowledge/lore between account veterans and newbies? Who pays for that? Why?
  • How much non-work time do you spend with your clients? This is more personality driven, but a thought-provoker.
  • How do you perform on quantitative and qualitative scorecards, annual reviews, etc. What’s the record there?
  • How much transparency do you have in the relationship? Transparency means more than just financials.

There are many more questions like these out there. But this post is feeling a little long. And that shovel is calling me. Damn snow. And don’t get me started on how brutally cold it is here!

P.S. Two last, related thoughts: can we come up with something different than the word “partner”? A new word can help differentiate you and give you the chance to define it in your way (building from what you know your audience needs).

#2: partnership is size agnostic. Don’t be put off by the Shell and Coors examples above. Many small shops have long relationships. In fact, there probably is a very cool stat out there that suggests smaller agencies can be better partners because they’re privately held, etc.