2020 saw a fundamental shift in the way employees and teams work together. Staffing levels and structures have changed, while working from home has become embedded. Some of these changes, or an evolution of them, will become permanent. For example, some companies are planning 50% capacity, or less, at their offices when things return to normal. Some have even relinquishing their offices all together.
At the same time the rapidly changing business and consumer context has enabled some brands and organisations to recognise the potential of their agencies as strategic partners, providing valuable insight and resource to help deliver competitive advantage during difficult times.
Responding to changes in consumer behaviour, the need for new agency skills and capabilities in the agency roster of some brands has been evident, for example direct to consumer, e-commerce and influencer marketing.
And at a more fundamental level significant changes in the business context and objectives of some companies has prompted reviews of marketing organisation structures and agency models.
For brands and agencies to successfully navigate this turmoil together and provide a foundation for stability in the years ahead requires a focus on the fundamentals of mutual trust and respect, collaboration and a focus on performance to drive brand growth. All members of the brands and agency teams need to perform at their best to deliver creative excellence and ultimately value. Robust, constructive agency relationship management enables that to happen.
Employees of most companies are used to working in an environment where contracts of employment regulate the relationship between the organisation and employee, roles and responsibilities define what is expected on the employee within their role, and appraisal frameworks link output and behaviours and values to remuneration. Agency relationship management takes a similar construct but applied to external agency partners.
Agency relationship management is perhaps regarded as the less ‘glamourous’ side of marketing, not directly part of the creative communications process. But strong marketer and agency relationships deliver creative excellence, agency relationship management enables that to happen.
In our work with brands and companies we have witnessed the impact of poor relationships between marketers and their agency colleagues – resulting in frustration, wasted resources and ultimately loss of focus on business challenges and delivering on brand growth.
After the turmoil of 2020, and the need to stabalise and formalise some of the rapid changes that were necessary over the last year, effective and robust agency relationship management is essential to ensure that resources are focused and able to operate at their best. It’s an investment, but one well worth making. Because focused and aligned teams, efficient and effective processes and agile and consumer centric creative excellence will more than deliver a return on investment.
To find out more please see our best practice guide to agency relationship management published with ISBA or contact us for more information