6 Best Practices for Agencies


A friend of mine who owns a small agency asked for my perspective on best practices for agencies. Here’s what I sent her, which after I realized would make a blog post!…

I’ve worked
with about 10 or more agencies, plus many technology suppliers, and there’s a
lot to improve.

Let me start a few ideas that
come to mind:

1)    Pitches are not
grounded enough in the client’s business objectives, strategy or measurements.
Nor are they tailored to the ‘style’ of the company. The best pitches ‘feel’
like that agency was part of the company. I think agencies should be seen as
extensions of the team, and therefore evaluated as if you were to hire them as
employees. The further they are along on that path of alignment in the pitch,
the better the chance to win.

2)    Incentives are not
aligned. Agencies want to drum up projects and bill hours. I put bonus plans in
place for our agencies at Dell driven by Dell performance metrics.

3)    Some agencies pitch with
the best team and hand over to new employees. The team you have a year from now
is rarely as good as the team you got to kick off.

4)    Respect client time.
Come in with an ‘answer first’ approach, with the recommendation, and with
clear follow through, follow up, action steps, dates, owners…along with what we
discussed last time. Clients want a sense of progress and what to do next…but
done quickly.

5)    Perspective. The agency who should have
perspective on competitors, best practices, and the ‘buzz’ in the industry.
Agencies could be more proactive in educating the clients on what’s new, what’s
the latest. They should forward articles, events, organizations, etc.

6)    Agency should be
clear on how they want to be managed, and that they won’t agree with the client
on everything. At first I had a problem with an agency at Dell, because they were so
opinionated. I soon realized that iron sharpened iron and we reached the best
decisions that way. Ultimately I made the final call, but unlike other agencies,
I had a special relationship with them after I came to that ‘more humble’ perspective. I think
agencies could be more explicit about suggesting that’s how they will work with
clients, and not apologize for that.

13 Responses

  1. Ted Grigg says:

    This is a well thought out list Sam. We have similar backgrounds with multiple agencies plus about 30% of my career spent on the client side.
    Another area agencies need a lot of help with relates primarily to new business. You’ve heard these before I’m sure. But they are worth repeating.
    1. Your most important client is the agency itself.
    2. If the agency’s top leader and creative director aren’t driving new business, then your agency is already going out of business.
    3. Recommend what the client needs, not just what you as an agency are comfortable doing or understand. Expand your horizon going all the way with multichannel and multi-discipline thinking. Be courageous and listen to ALL of the pros on your team and go outside for help when you need it.
    4. Do not attempt to create your own sales materials or implement your own PR efforts. You are too close to the problem. Outsource this role to skilled professionals that do not work for your organization. That way it will get done and done right.
    5. Allocate at least 10% of your management and other staff to new business activities. You need breathing room for new business. Again, make your own agency a client with a budget and give it appropriate people resources. Most of all, give it the same priority you would to your most important client.
    6. In my experience, winning the good accounts means that you must convey to the prospective client that you have special knowledge about their own customers. If you do, then the client will attribute other key talents to your team without added effort on your part. By doing this well, you’ve also convinced them you really care about their success.
    7. How do you know when your new business is working besides just growing sales figures? It’s simple. How many accounts have you turned down due to incompatibility of focus or chemistry in the last 12-24 months? If it is zero, then you have not given new business the priority it requires.
    Sorry for the long response. But you hit on one of my most passionate subjects.
    Thanks for a really good post.

  2. Petes2cents says:

    Internet marketing and any marketing for that matter, is the life blood of any business. But your advantage on the internet is huge, cause of the low cost and ease. (you can do it yourself) But you still have to work hard and put time into it…and we all know that nothing is for free in this world. (usually) Actually, I’m wrong, there’s tons of stuff for free on the internet, and you can also get a ton of traffic to your site for free, if you know how to play the game, work hard, and know how to market yourself. There’s tons of tricks and tips and I try to learn one everyday.

  3. Matt Rogers says:

    Before leaving Dell to be the CMO of Bazaare Voice, Sam Decker was my boss. I learned a lot from Sam, and continue to do so from this blog . This post made me think about the other side of the relationship between agencies and clients.
    What makes a great client? I asked a few friends in the agency world and came up with this list.

  4. I am totally agree with the above person that the internet marketing is the soul of any business by which we can earn alot and i think internet marketing is back bone of business.

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  12. Hi
    At first I had a problem with an agency at Dell, because they were so opinionated.
    I soon realized that iron sharpened iron and we reached the best decisions that way
    John B. Barnhart

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