Can This Relationship Work?

We have all undoubtedly experienced a mixed bag of client/agency relationships over the years—from the rich, rewarding experiences we fondly remember to those indifferent, demotivating relationships. There may even be one or two we would rather forget. It’s the glue that bonds us to our clients and paymasters (or not).

Within an in-house agency, however, the perspective is different. You [more]don’t get to choose your clients, just like you don’t get to choose your family. Because you are all part of the same company, you have to make it work. Even so, it’s good to take a step back every now and then to review the challenges and opportunities that exist between clients and the in-house team.

All relationships are susceptible to changing circumstances like external pressures, variable personalities, and seemingly never-ending routine jobs and administrative tasks. So how do we not only contend with these pitfalls but also be strong enough to develop a closer, more-effective relationship when we live and work under the same roof as our business partners?

Where to begin. The degree of change in marketing today is unprecedented. But how much of this drive for social media, content marketing, storytelling, technology and analytics is reflected in the structures and skillsets currently present on both sides of the client/agency dynamic? Discussing and understanding the roles and talent requirements between client and agency, so opportunities can be seized and risks mitigated is important in order to face these challenges. Together.

From a defined common starting point, how does this filter down to shape the day-to-day relationship? Am I getting the full story here? It is beholden upon the brand managers and marketing budget holders to articulate their vision and how it should influence the in-house agency’s deliverables through the briefing process?

Naturally, the better the brief, the better the chance of meeting the business goals and deadlines that have been defined. To provide consistency and discipline to this process, there is considerable merit to using a well-structured but suitably flexible job scoping system to help flesh out the full brief. There is also the added benefit that with the increased level of transparency and archiving offered by online systems ensures that all individuals contributing to the campaign will be held to a higher level of accountability. And, by the way, if all parties in the relationship are glued together by one system, it is only fair they have equal input and ownership of the system itself.

The devil is in the details. As with any relationship, it is often the small stuff that can cause the most friction. For example:

● Where are all the required copy, graphics and images for this campaign?
● Do we have the necessary usage rights to actually use these images?
● Is the job still on time and in budget?
● And where are those production specs?!

By storing these assets and specs within integrated modules, they can then be automatically linked to the required jobs (with all relevant supporting data) eliminating the tedious repetition of locating, copying and collating. And with client and agency teams having real-time access to job status, a vast number of distracting emails and calls, as well as the stress caused by simply not knowing what’s going on, can be eliminated. By automating details (and thereby keeping the devil out of the relationship), the collective effort can be focused on nailing what is most important.

Turning down the heat—and keeping it down. The worst time to start pointing the finger of blame is when everyone is stressed and busting a gut trying to hit deadlines. In today’s world of analytics and reporting, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have a crucial role to play in building and maintaining healthy client relationships. With smart integrated systems facilitating project workflow and keeping everyone connected, it is relatively easy to aggregate jobs, standardize the monitoring of revisions, delays, overspends and other key indicators. With all stakeholders equally vested in a single KPI process, they can also be equally confident that performance can be objectively reviewed and assessed at the appropriate time and place—and not just when jobs need urgent attention.

Shared commitment and shared successes. A shared commitment to this transparent framework of campaign briefing, job management and performance reviews will help pull the client and in-house agency closer together to fulfill the benefits of their unique relationship. These initiatives should not be expensive: the cost and time efficiencies realized can easily outweigh any associated costs. Beyond that, there are the intangible benefits of working in a less-stressful, more-creative environment. With the facilities and resources widely available in today’s connected world, campaigns that are developed and delivered should lead to rewarding client/agency relationships.

Express KCS is a leading creative production company. As a proud IHAF member, we partner with and support many in-house agencies, helping them quickly realize their marketing plans with minimum fuss. Our skilled staff provides support to brands across all forms of media, cost-effectively and on-brand. Our award-winning, cloud-based asset management system, MediaFerry, also helps our clients store and retrieve assets, as well as proof and approve designs anytime, anywhere.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

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