At a Christmas party a few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend what he should be doing to make sure his advertising agency delivers superior results in selling his consumer product. I was impressed at the question, at the recognition that his actions directly affect the results, that he felt a responsibility for the success as a partner rather than feeling he had simply hired a vendor. The more we talked, the more I realized others might find this useful so I condensed our conversation into these key concepts:
- Your agency is your ally, working on your behalf to help you succeed and to make you look heroic to your customers, to your boss and to your board of directors. Tell the whole story and try not to hold information back about competitors, new products in the pipeline, internal politics or failed strategies. Your agency values every bit of information and sometimes having knowledge about failed projects or internal strife can mean the difference between presenting the killer idea or presenting the idea that gets us all killed.
- State your opinions firmly. You are undoubtedly an expert in your industry and only you can offer your unique perspective. Don’t worry about hurting your agency’s feelings. Not only is your agency professional – they can handle it – but they should also welcome your candor and use it to get more on target.
- Provide the real budget number. A financial planner will most certainly recommend a different asset allocation strategy for a $1 million investment than he or she would for a $10,000.00 investment. Your agency would do the same – recommending very different courses of action if given very different budget figures. If you value the agency’s recommendation then just say the real number. Don’t feel embarrassed that it’s not as high as you’d like it to be and don’t inflate it beyond what you’re truly willing and able to invest. It’s ok to start small and grow. An ad agency that requires you to start big probably isn’t your best choice as a marketing partner
- Don’t let the agency do any work without your approval. You should be signing off every step of the way from a written estimate to a comp layout, proof and so forth. This ensures everyone agrees with the direction and execution of the project as it moves forward. It may seem bothersome to sign off on minor text revisions or on low-cost purchases but these are the day to day cases where written approvals are most important. If your agency is not asking for approval to spend your money on the little items then they may not be asking for approval on the big items either. Pay attention to where the dollars are going. Set a formal budget, demand accountability and focus measurement efforts on the line that matters most: the bottom line.
- Give your agency the good news, too. When your new customer says he or she was impressed by your brochure and Web site and they were important reasons they selected your company, tell your agency. Or if you’ve logged a record month or were nominated for a local award, don’t hide the good news. They’ll feel good and inspired to work even harder for you.