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From the Trenches

Are You a Bad Client? Fix the Agency Relationship, Generate More Revenue

Yvonne Lyons | October 17, 2014

If you work with an outsourced marketing firm or agency to help you execute your marketing strategy, you probably assume the relationship will make your life easier and will ultimately drive top-line revenue in the form of leads, new prospects and new customers. And you should. When that doesn’t go smoothly, or if those leads, prospects, and customers don’t come sailing in, are you the first one to throw the agency under the bus? It’s a natural reaction. I’ve certainly done it (my apologies to those agencies I was working with).

Here’s what you’re probably thinking: The agency is not delivering the right creative, or coming up with the good ideas, or coming up with enough of them, or doing it fast enough, or they’re messing up the process, or you suspect that they are putting another client’s work in front of yours, or any number of mean, shifty agency kinds of things.

But have you considered that YOU might be part of the problem? Probably not, right?

If you’re having an issue getting what you need out of your outsourced marketing company or agency, it’s certainly possible you have a partner with a problem, you might have a mutual issue, or it might be a you problem. A relationship that doesn’t work, in this instance, is more than just a nuisance. It can hurt your bottom line because it can slow down, or even stop the marketing machine that, when well oiled, is a revenue generator.

Pause for a minute and figure out if you are part of the problem. Here are some things that make you a bad client and hurt your bottom line, as well as some fixes to get your agency relationship moving in the right direction again.

Creating ridiculous deadlines — A good marketing firm or agency will always make you feel like you are their only client. That’s the right way to do it. But come on, friends. You know you’re not, right? Agencies have schedules to maintain so that they can get your stuff done on time and their other clients’ work, too.

Emergencies do come up and agencies understand this. Your agency partner will be willing to accommodate a rush project now and then. But if every one of your projects is a panic, you’re crying wolf. If you constantly show up with, “we need this in three days,” or if you dilly-dally with turnarounds and don’t maintain your part of the schedule, you become THAT client and ultimately hurt yourself.

No matter how good your agency team is, in rush situations, you’re not getting the dedicated thought and planning that go into a well-scheduled project. If you want the best work, which ultimately drives the best results and those leads and customers you’re after, give your team time to do it. This requires planning on your part. There is no magic wand. You need to plan so your team can do the work.

Acting as a human logjam — You create a list of projects, your agency sends over drafts or creative to review, and it piles up on your desk. You’re a busy person. Completely understandable. If you know that your schedule does not always allow for the review of material, find someone in your organization who you trust and empower them to give feedback to your marketing team/agency to keep the ball rolling. Giving up control is hard, but not having any marketing, and the resulting lack of revenue, can be even harder. Whatever you do, don’t create the logjam and then blame the agency for not producing anything.

Offering wrong-rock feedback — I wrote a post about this a while back. What I mean by offering feedback caveman-style is telling your creative or content team that you don’t like whatever they have produced but without a specific reason why: “It’s just not the right thing.” “I’ll know it when I see it.” “It just doesn’t feel right.” “It’s not what I was thinking it would sound like.”

Offer constructive, detailed feedback both on content and design. The opposite is both frustrating to the agency and wastes everyone’s time — and your money. In the end, both you and the creative folks will be cranky.

Executing without planning — This is pretty basic but it needs to be said. If you hire a marketing team or an agency, and you’re not willing to put some planning and goals together first, you’re flying blind and that can spell disaster for both parties. Success rarely comes to those who constantly shift gears looking for the right marketing approach. Planning gives you a path to follow, and ensures that you are connecting all marketing activity back to the bigger business objectives. Ultimately, the plan also makes it possible to measure success, and really that’s what everyone wants to be able to do, right?

Without the plan, you will blame the agency. They have been burned before with this kind of thing, and the experienced agencies will be wary of a client who wants to jump in without the proper planning and goals in place. Don’t do this to yourself or your partner.

Directing into confusion — Even with goals in place, you need to offer direction to your agency. You know the internal workings and decision-making protocol at your company. If the corporate temperature changes, you need to alert your partner so everyone can adjust. Communication is key.

If you do have to change direction, it needs to be for a good reason, and it can’t be all the time. This goes back to being able to measure the success of your efforts and ultimately being able to impact the bottom line. Any marketing effort is generally more of a marathon than a sprint. If you constantly change course, your work, and that of your agency, does not have time to make an impact — and therefore doesn’t have time to impact the bottom line. Stay the course. Let the team execute the full plan or campaign.

Being difficult to reach or absent – Be available. Show up when you say you will. Just because you outsourced your marketing and/or creative work doesn’t mean you can wash your hands of the task and assume there will be no responsibility involved for you. Your team needs your input.

If you are frequently out of the office, create another point of contact who is empowered to make decisions. If you’re not comfortable with that, set up a weekly call to check in, or offer your cell phone number and then answer it. Someone needs to provide the answers and guidance, especially if you have deadline-critical projects (who doesn’t?). Otherwise work will stop, schedules will be delayed, and you won’t see the ROI you thought you would. Don’t blame the agency. You have to be involved.

Getting remarkable work out of an agency or outsourced marketing partner is all about forging a strong relationship. Step one is being a good client. Do you have any of these six bad-client habits? Change what you’re doing. Your agency will love you and will produce better work — and you’ll have results and revenue to build your case for future marketing plans.

If you’re considering an outsourced marketing relationship and wondering how it really works, contact us and we can arm you with some stories that will help you determine if it’s the right fit for you.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.