If you've spent any time on the brand side or inside the agency -- you could muse on this topic all day long. With fond memories, painful remembrances, and all the recollected fodder that is your personal case history. The topic of the Brand/Agency relationship is perennial. And, we've been talking about how to make it last for the long-term, well, for a very long time. Most of the advice, truthfully -- is never, ever new. But, the best of it is tried and true.
In Tuesday's ad:tech session, "Meeting the Needs to Build Long-Lasting Relationships" -- those musing drew on experiences at American Express, Arnold NY, and Central Desktop. And the moderator herself, was a well-known strategist and trooper in brand and agency relations -- Ms. Dana Todd. There were no obvious battle scars and the conversation came down mostly to well-earned insight.
Having spent most of my career prior to say, the last five years, inside agencies large and small -- multi-practice, digital and/or specialty -- the categories of concern rang true. On both sides of the relationship, the primary pieces remain: navigating and aligning procurement processes to do the right deal; savvy negotiation and care-taking of scope; aligning and mutually benefiting from compensation structures; keeping the short- and long-term framework and opportunity in perspective and making each work.
While all good brand stewards and all solid client services professionals must be mindful and skilled in all these areas, it's important to understand that achieving success in these areas is some mix of innate stuff and natural-born muscle; the training you get from great managers and mentors; outside professional development and training; and of course the hard knocks that make up an individual career. It's hard stuff to present on a panel or from a podium, in a way that will stick for an audience, unless those congregated have been there and have a framework into which to go back and plug all this.
A couple of the most interesting points that came out of this session were these:
- As an agency or vendor the reason it is important to understand the brand-side decider's personal compensation structure -- and we all should know that it is -- is that it may hinder them from making long-term commitments. For example, if they are measured and rewarded quarterly, and you are not in a position to set and deliver on immediate short-term metrics -- the proposition of working with you may scare said decider. So, working with the highest level decider, who has more flex on their own structure for performance may behoove you. Otherwise, for those quarterly measured, you may seem too great a risk.
- That while we all like to believe we get the mechanics of the client relationship and how to staff it -- there is an outright art to matching talent. As an agency, when staffing a new engagement, you should absolutely take the time to think through personality profiles, skills set and any number of other little affinities to artfully match team to client.
While those seasoned in the Brand/Agency relationship aren't exactly a club (no matter how much it may sound like it) -- it is important to remember that much of this is learned over time. As you incorporate tips, tricks, best practices (and a few horror stories) to getting it right -- when it comes to long-term love between the two, it's really important to get excited about the fact that you are talking about building a lifetime value, even in your own career. Doing this right will be a personal body of work -- achieved over time.