Thoughts of the ideal agency

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There are five definitions of the word “ideal” in the online dictionary accessed by my browser. Near the top of the list was the definition that I expected: “A standard of perfection or excellence.”

This, I thought, was how agency principals most likely view their firms. But what comes to mind when clients think of the ideal agency? Definition number five was one that we’d probably be drawn to:: “Something that exists only in the imagination: To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.” It took a few minutes for the grin to leave my face.

I’ve been a brand-based marketer for the last 33 years of my career. There’s seldom been a time, since 1980, when an agency partner wasn’t part of the equation—some more capable and better than others. Here are the standards I seek in the “ideal agency”—the one that may only exist in my imagination!

1. Consistency of quality. The people assigned to work on the account would be every bit as talented and capable as the people who pitch to win the business. The absence of this is why my focus has been on hiring firms that are able to make the commitment that the agency principals will be highly engaged with our relationship and deliverables.

2. Informed and aware. The ideal agency is one that makes it their business to understand ours—observant, engaged and in motion. The brand is everything to us and we want it to be the same for you. Not just during occasional surges, but on an ongoing basis.

Learn our industry. Purchase our products. Experience our service. Understand our challenges. The ideal agency knows our direction and proactively informs our decisions. As the client learns and stretches into new dimensions and opportunities, so should its agency partners. To do anything less will leave your agency behind, basking in yesterday’s success.

3. Know what you’re great at. Focus is a very good thing. Agency leaders need to remember their roots and rediscover their core competencies. By focusing on your strengths, you’ll consistently be able to bring value to the table. Trying to be all things to all clients is the kiss of death. It won’t serve the agency and it certainly doesn’t serve the client. There’s no such thing as a full-service agency. Unless mediocrity is what you consider ideal.

4. Treat our money like it was your money. How much agency cash goes out the door to market the agency brand? Generally speaking, not much! So why is it so easy to create proposals and invoices that stretch budgets, incur exorbitant costs and mark up operating expenses? Ideally, an agency partner understands the meaning and importance of resource constraints and still is able to bring breakthrough thinking and deliverables to the table.

5. Trust and loyalty matter. Ideal agency partners would trust and respect their clients. Trust that the client is in touch with its brands, its industry and knows what’s worked and what hasn’t. Respect that the client understands what will resonate with the internal culture and employees who live the brand from the inside out.

In summary, the ideal agency is one whose talent pool is skilled and passionate from top to bottom, stays focused on the work they do best and collaborates exceptionally well, without concern for who gets the credit. Most important of all, the ideal agency trusts and respects the decisions of the brand and wouldn’t think of “cheating” on that relationship by courting bigger, richer clients at the first opportunity.

Add A New Comment

  • Nic Wildeman
    Jan. 17, 2014
    Well writ!

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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