Want a Better Agency Partner? Be a Better Client!

Blog Post
December 18, 2014

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Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen massive amounts of change in retail marketing. Company leadership is asking for new thinking to drive the business, and any new tactics need to drive measurable results more quickly than ever. Internal pressures are made greater by the pace at which the customer’s behavior is changing. It’s daunting.

Fortunately, you’re not alone! You have a multitude of resources to leverage to get to the best insights, strategies and marketing tactics. But how do you get the most out of these resources, such as your agency partnership? How do you find a better agency partner? Be a better client!

Let Them In

When I left my last job as the “client” to come to the “vendor” side, I heard from multiple agency teams and internal folks that I was a great partner to work with. One partner even said I was the best client she’d worked with in her 20 years of working. WOW! Was I smarter than anyone else? No. Was I nicer than anyone else? Doubtful. So what did I do that others don’t?

My partners–external and internal–appreciated, respected and delivered for me because I let them INTO the discussion. I shared decks and dashboards, questions that kept me up at night, quarterly biz reviews, consumer research, frustrations and wins. I treated them as a valued part of the team…because they were!

Provide Context

Looking back about 10 years, there was a pivotal point in my career where I learned how to better lead teams and agencies to solve problems. When I was at Best Buy, I had a team member who was my go-to person on analytics. So naturally, when the Big Boss called with a question, I’d strategize my response (because of course I already knew the answer) and ask my analyst to “run some numbers.” (We all do this right? We’re pressed for time and need answers pronto!) A few days later, I checked in and he hadn’t done any work. Why? He tells me that he needs more information: What decision will I make based on the data? Who am I sharing the information with? What is the hypothesis?

And here a light bulb goes off. Instead of me mandating “run some numbers,” I needed to step back and provide CONTEXT–share what question I had been asked and why. Then he would be able to think more strategically about how to answer the question at hand and provide the right information.

Let Them Help You Be The Expert

We must take this approach with our partners (again, internal and external). Whether you leverage partners on specific marketing channels, marketing technology, consumer behavior, market and customer analysis, etc., they have specific knowledge THAT YOU HIRED THEM FOR. Use it.

It’s scary, I know. As individuals, we all feel the pressure to be experts. We feel we have to answer the questions or we won’t be looked at as the leader. This thinking is archaic. The world is changing too rapidly. Individuals can’t be all knowing. If you leverage any and all the talent you have available to solve the business problem at hand or drive new strategies to deliver results, THAT is what will make you look smart!

Rely on others. Ensure they know where you need help. When given the opportunity to participate, both internal and external teams will absolutely rise to the challenge and help you get to the best thinking to drive results. Give it a try! You could be the person folks say, “she was the best client I’ve ever worked with.” And wouldn’t that be awesome? You Betcha.