As a consultant, I’m frequently asked by CMOs and marketers of all types what makes a great agency. Sharing data and educating clients are just two defining characteristics.
There are many qualified marketing and analytics shops that can help your brand elevate its digital success. But what separates the good from the great agencies?
It goes beyond having leadership that understands the importance of being data-driven. That’s just part of it. It goes beyond winning awards. While those are wonderful and certainly may be a qualifying factor, they are likely removed from the day-to-day process of working on client programs, managing the meat and potatoes aspects of marketing and analytics that drive a businesses. Actions and the right approach always beat a pedigree.
They report results as part of a process
Your team should deliver reports at agreed upon frequency to provide regular, anticipated updates on progress, avoiding fire drills from the agency to client (or vice versa) asking about the results from last month or last quarter. Savvy agencies are experienced enough to include the scope and frequency of their reports in agreements so all parties know what to expect throughout programs.
Agencies with strong skills delivering results reports and insights are by far the best positioned to help their clients win.
They remove the silos and encourage sharing insights
During my tenure as a consultant, I regularly came across digital shops that were working with the same client I was. On more than one occasion, they would be reticent to pass our team the data and insights we needed to make educated decisions, usually because of insecurity or irrational fear.
But so long as everyone is under NDA and roles are scoped clearly, agencies need to be collaborative. This frequently means sharing relevant insights and analytics access across functions so everyone can do their job. After all, if the client loses, the agencies lose, too.
Great agencies are collaborative by default and very accustomed to working with other partners that are part of a client team. They are by nature trusting and respectful.
They conduct measurement planning at the start of the client engagement
No client is going to have their digital measurement perfectly configured when you walk in the door your first day as a consultant. Even if they were close, there is always room for improvement on the sophisticated side of the measurement spectrum.
No matter the level of sophistication, measurement planning is a requisite. If you’re new to measurement planning, check out this brief primer I wrote a few years ago which is still relevant.
They educate the client team to continually uplevel the work they do
Tier 1 digital shops don’t just keep their knowledge under lock and key. Their clients are trusted long-term partners. Having structured education opportunities for your clients is not only an excellent way to improve your working relationship, but as your clients gets savvier, it’s an opportunity to move them up the value chain of your agency’s services to more complex, strategic work.
Great agencies spend effort to educate their own team members and provide them a career path with continued growth. For example, at Google, we have online analytics courses that are useful to both agencies and brands for just this.
They don’t misrepresent who the team will be comprised of during client pitches
Great agencies staff their teams appropriately, with both senior agency professionals and practice area specialists. They don’t go into client pitches with senior executives who will never be heard from again, but with the actual team that will be working on the program day-to-day.
In agencies I would personally consider great, people at all levels are “doers” and spend time shepherding programs, attending client meetings, and providing leadership expertise to ensure programs are functioning at their peak.
They do more to give back to our industry
This one is a “nice to have,” but I think the best agencies are part of the wider discussion happening in the world. This sort of participation can only lead to positive things, including new business and attracting talent, so the benefits for the agency are here too. It’s a win-win.
by Adam Singer