In our 20+ years as a full-service advertising agency, we’ve experienced the scrutiny of agency reviews a handful of times. In this article, we’ll touch on key points to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of an agency review. When it’s time to take a deeper dive, download our accompanying guide, full of insights and considerations.
Before you start an agency review
Something has inspired you to want to take a look at the client-agency relationship and evaluate it. But before you move forward with conducting an agency review, ask yourself these five questions to guide you toward the best next step - or series of steps - to get your marketing team and agency partnership aligned.
1. What are the pain points you are trying to solve?
Make a list of the items that you are concerned about, and involve others on your team where appropriate. Some common considerations are:
- You are over budget
- You are not hitting goals
- You are not competitive
- Your team is stumbling
Involving your team to help identify current concerns may help you uncover the underlying issues that you are not face-to-face with on a daily basis. And, noting the unique perspectives of the individuals on your team will be informative as well.
2. What are your marketing and organizational goals?
Clearly identifying your organizational goals will guide your way on the marketing side. If you aren’t feeling solid about what your organizational goals are, then developing an effective marketing plan is a non-starter.
Once you have your organizational goals written out and signed off on, and have developed your marketing goals to serve the larger organizational objectives, then you can evaluate the best fit for your agency partnership. Ask yourself, “Where do we need to put our focus in order to get where we need to go?” Here are a few examples:
- Thought leadership
Determining your needed areas of focus, along with the priority of your top objectives will help you determine if you need to arrange for a deeper partnership with your current agency, develop an additional agency partnership or move on completely from your current agency.
3. What are the current roles of your internal team and their natural giftings or aptitudes?
Analyze your team's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). As a marketing team, it’s imperative that everyone work within their strengths as well as their natural passions.
Once you’ve reviewed your team’s SWOT analysis, and have your in-house team focused on their strengths, consider how your marketing agency and other third-party partners play a role in your overall marketing team picture. This will help you identify where you can best allocate all of your resources to fully leverage your entire team - both internally and externally.
4. What is it like working with your current agency?
Evaluating what it feels like to work with your current agency can help you understand in your gut what needs to happen next. If you really enjoy the people and they have the talent, experience and flexibility to meet your current goals, then ask yourself these questions:
- Does your agency have experience solving similar problems to the ones you are facing or anticipating?
- What are the barriers, if any, to effective communication?
Just because your agency doesn’t have experience solving similar problems to what lies ahead of you doesn’t mean they can’t do it. Michael Jordan wasn’t born dunking a basketball. And, by now, you’ve determined what your agency’s aptitudes are, so you should be able to have a good feel for if you can rely on them to help solve the issues you’re facing, or if you need to pull together more talent.
Additionally, if effective communication sounds like a utopian artifact, it won’t matter if you’re working with the award-winning-est agency on planet earth to help you. Solutions to systemic communication issues can stem from several different types of action or inaction. Whatever it might be, if you can achieve the goal of having small groups of talented people who complement each other's strengths and work smoothly together, you will have something that can produce special results.
5. Have you had a major internal shift in your organization?
If your organization is experiencing any of the following disruptive changes, it may be time to look at an agency review:
- a new brand
- new ownership
- new management
- a significant budget change
- a significant industry change
Though all of these factors are internal at your organization, the fit between your current agency and your organization was decided on who you used to be - not who you are now or where you’re headed.
Is it time for an agency review?
Third-party partners should be assessed from time to time, and while change can be a catalyst for growth and innovation, it can also be unnecessarily costly and disruptive.
Before you dive into a review of your agency, or jump over that step and fire them, going through a process of reflection and assessment will help you evaluate your next move.