How to get more from your agency relationship

Trust is the force-multiplier of relationships. It grows from the intimacy of doing life together. With average client-agency tenure of less than three years, it’s important to be intentional about developing trust quickly. So, whether you are in a new client-agency relationship or want to spice up an existing one, here are four ways you can get more from your agency in minutes, not months.

1. Trust them first

Be transparent, sharing inside information. It helps your agency to know what you are facing on a daily basis. What are you hearing from sales? How is the company performing? Is there a new company leader in place? What’s his/her background? When your agency understands your gates and dates, they can be a better partner. Talk about your approval process and key stakeholders—how they operate and what’s important to them—and your agency can help you build a relevant business case and sell-in materials with the right messaging mindset. A 50-slide deck will miss the mark if your audience has a 5-slide attention span.

2. Challenge them

Engage your agency in transformative conversations, even on transactional projects. With limited agency scope/complexity, transactional projects are often initiated with a simple request:

  • We need an [ad, asset, campaign].
  • Create this [visual, infographic, video].
  • Change that [headline, copy, image, call-to-action, form].

While there’s a time and place for this kind of direction, it usually does not allow you to fully experience the depth and breadth of your agency’s expertise. Invite them into a dynamic dialog on your next project and see where it leads. Conversation-starters include:

  • Let’s talk about the challenge we’re facing and the problem we need to solve.
  • Looking at the [research, results, data, trends], what stands out as an opportunity?
  • How can we optimize our marketing efforts to drive more results?
  • What are we not doing today that we should be doing?
  • Where can we positively impact the sales cycle?
  • What can we test? What should we test?

3. Protect them

Respect the time it takes to develop sound strategy and killer creative. Set your agency—and yourself—up for success by providing:

  • A comprehensive assessment of the problem or opportunity
  • Budget range (ideally one well-matched to the priority of the project)
  • Desired timeline and any firm gates and dates
  • A client briefing where your agency can ask you questions

With a foundational understanding of all the variables, your agency will be in a position to tell you what they can do and what they recommend doing. Depending on the time and budget constraints, these may be different things. This is always a valuable conversation to have early in the life of a project.

4. Play with them

Plato said that you could discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. We agree! Make time to get to know your agency and let them get to know you and your team. When you’re texting your agency on a Saturday morning because you have a critical situation, you’ll be glad you did. They’ll run through fire for you.

When you get more from your agency in these simple ways, you win personally and professionally. In addition to the work being better and the celebration sweeter when shared with a valued partner and friend, a great client-agency relationship can help you weather a storm. It’s very likely that you’ll emerge on the other side with a realization that the risks taken together were a catalyst for your next opportunity.


This post first appeared on the Elevation blog at