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What you should be doing now to work with your Agencies

The world has shifted on its axis.  The immediate response is personal and people-centred.  Followed swiftly by the disruption to day-to-day activity either through illness, working from home – and all the complexities a lock down brings.

For businesses the impact has been polarised – either an immediate and substantial loss in demand, or conversely a significant short-term escalation in demand.

Regardless of your specific business context strong Client Agency relationships are essential at the best of times, and will prove to be vital at this worst of times.

Here are a few pointers to help manage that relationship during this difficult period.

  1. Communicate more regularly – let the agencies know what’s happening in your business, how have priorities shifted, what are you being asked to do. By knowing and understanding this they are better placed to help you.
  2. Use the resources you have available – although much of your work may have switched to project based you are likely to still have a number of key personnel on retainer. In particular, the Strategists at your Media, Creative and Digital agencies should be able to give you valuable insight about what others are doing and help you plan your way out of the crisis.  Get the best minds working collaboratively with you to help solve the problems you face.
  3. Respect your suppliers and help them – you are probably under pressure from the CFO to slash costs and prioritise spend. Don’t be tempted to push this pressure down to your Agencies by trying to renegotiate terms or defer agreed payments.  The very best Clients are recognising the financial constraints some of their suppliers may be under – particularly as smaller businesses – and helping them by speeding up approvals and facilitating early payment of invoices.  Agencies will remember and respect you for this.
  4. Continue the momentum of pitches – some companies may be mid-pitch and be tempted to shut down the process. However, Agency investment in the pitch process is considerable and shutting down the process will result in wasted expenditure by the Agency.  With good planning and facilitation it is possible to continue the pitch process, albeit not face-to-face.  Although the immediate scope of work may change you will have secured a partner, who is highly motivated and poised to start work for you at the right moment.
  5. Pause and think about Agency performance measurement – KPIs set at the start of the year will probably not be appropriate in the current context. For Q2 and Q3 think about different criteria to feed into performance reviews and payment-by-result.  For example, how has the agency stepped up to help you through this crisis? How agile were they in responding and adapting their plans?  What additional value-add did they demonstrate to support your business?  How did they demonstrate true partnership?All of those questions also work both ways – Client on Agency as well as Agency on Client, so think about how you might also be measured against them.
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