So you’ve got an agency. You’ve finally found the budget, you’ve made your choice and the agency is all signed up and raring to go. Don’t cross your fingers and hope like hell they don’t waste your investment. Whether that agency is helping you with HR, PR, SEO or finance, there are ways to manage them to get the best value.
1. Allocate resources
Someone must manage the agency to answer questions, approve drafts and supply information. This takes more time than you think. When I lived in London, my agency had a client, an SEO optimisation company. A junior tech guy was allocated the job of managing us. It was a disaster. We were last on his priority list, he rarely responded to queries and he was slow to approve content. Opportunities were missed; it made our job so much harder. Allocate as much time and consideration to the appointment of the person managing the agency as you did in choosing the agency itself. The person you select must have the authority to approve content, the time to invest (especially at first) and the enthusiasm for the task.
2. Demand value
Truly, you don’t have to be super nice: agencies will walk over clients who are too agreeable. Have a ‘pigeon’ in your business to keep the agency on its toes (pigeons, fly in, shit on everything, then fly off). Of course, don’t be hideous and frighten your agency. They’ll either resign your business or they just won’t go the extra mile for you. The clients that demand value get the best from their agency.
3. Understand capacity
Agencies have other clients. Get over it. Good agencies will make you feel like you’re the only and/or most important client on their books, but sometimes they’ll be managing other clients and won’t be available. Be nice about it, unless you have a crisis that requires the agency’s urgent attention.
4. Take no for an answer
One retail client of mine once wanted a big song and dance about gift cards for Christmas. But media don’t feature gift cards in Christmas guides (they’re looking for quirky innovative gifts). It was very important to the client, but not appealing to the audience. When your agency declines your great idea, and explains why it won’t work, it’s usually best to accept their advice.
5. Invest in their knowledge
Agencies are like new employees at first, so spend time explaining the business and consider it a wise investment. A few years ago our team was happy to win a project promoting an amazing new health food. Only after we started work were we informed that the impressive benefits were all unproven and couldn’t be mentioned in any way. Naturally the entire campaign had rested on these claims and our plans were in tatters before we’d even begun!
6. Get them to spill the beans
Wouldn’t it be great to have a bit of insider knowledge about other businesses and the way they operate? Your agency can provide this. Its other clients might be in completely different industries but they will have a wealth of information about best practice across the board. Whether it’s an idea for staff morale, media relations or better financial management, encourage your agency to share what’s going on with their other clients (respecting confidentiality of course).