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Performance matters

Marketers that measure their agencies performance are investing in a better relationship and better results. Christine Downton explains…

Most people never looked forward to their school reports and that dislike of the spotlight means very few like being assessed on day to day work in the grown-up world.

As marketers and procurement experts, most of the time, we just want to get on with the job in hand. And yet performance measurement is one of the best tools in our locker to ensure that the job gets done more effectively and more efficiently.

Performance measurement helps smooth the inevitable issues that arise between advertiser and agency over time and, by helping maintain that relationship, ensures brands benefit from the value that long-term partnerships bring. More than that, effective management of the relationship avoids costly pitches and all the disruption that transition to a new agency can bring.

That’s before you even consider the better business results that enhanced communication delivers as well as the additional skills, capabilities and consistent ways of working amongst both the Client team and Agency partners. From the agency side, a smart system of Agency performance measurement also provides confidence that any Payment By Results programme incorporates reliable and accurate metrics.

The bottom line is that agency performance measurement is an investment in better results not a cost.

And it’s increasingly vital at a time when the world of marketing and communications is undergoing seismic shifts; a time when consumers are experiencing new ways to discover brands; are being contacted or connected in different ways; and the tools and techniques that are part of the day to day work of both marketers and agencies are being transformed.

In such a turbulent time, strong client: agency relationships are vital to help brands weather the uncertainty of transition. But as with any relationship, making it work requires effort. Agency performance measurement programmes are a critical part of that process.

They help:

  • To spot early signs of problems and stop them becoming bigger issues;
  • To celebrate and reward great performance;
  • Extend the relationship and improve efficiencies;
  • Embed best practice and ensure consistency across the organization;
  • To create a culture of improvement rather than a fear of punishment;
  • Identify where the real problems lie – rather than relying on subjective viewpoints;
  • And because Client and Agency senior management are too busy to be hands on it provides a mechanism to take a ‘pulse’ on the relationship; and
  • It provides objective feedback and data to enable decisions about the ongoing nature of the relationship.

Of course, it’s important to make the process as convenient as possible for both sides so a programme should be regular, simple and quick to take. It needs to involve a wide range of those involved, be honest, benchmarked and followed up on.

The agency should be involved from the start of the process in the development of the format to let them know that this is not simply another tool to bash them with.

They will also need to be reassured that there is a clear internal governance framework, clear roles and responsibilities defined by both marketing and procurement and agreed methodologies to escalate and resolve issues before they become a significant problem.

The very best surveys are online and enable verbatim comments as well as scores to allow everyone to feel the texture of the relationship. Involving a third party helps build the sense of independence and impartiality.

There are typically two models for agency performance measurement: light touch or deep dive.

The former will ask a few basic questions about the key elements of the relationship, they are typically quarterly and enable both sides to keep a finger on the pulse of a relationship. This format is good for ad hoc reviews after key meetings; monitoring relationship in months after a pitch and monitoring an entire roster.

The latter asks multiple questions across a wide range of areas and ideally takes place once or twice a year. It helps deliver granularity, particularly when problems have been identified in a light-touch survey and can provide robust measurement that can be used in Payment By Results formulae.

The fact is that there’s a strong business case for investing in Performance Measurement. Our experience shows that marketers who measure agency performance benefit from the value that long-term partnerships bring enabling them to produce better communications that drive better business results.

More effective management of the relationship avoids costly pitches and all the disruption of a transition to a new agency, it enhances skills and capabilities and ensures consistent ways of working across both the Client team and Agency partners.

And it incentivises the agency to put its best people on the account because it allows true payment by results that will motivate the agency, ensuring better value for clients.

The benefits are massive, it’s time to get on board.

Trial our Agency Performance Tracker to see how your agency relationship compares against our benchmarks.

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