Posted on 8/15/2017 in Business and Strategy

By John MacCurtain

What does success look like? It seems like a simple question to ask. However, often times a successful agency partnership goes beyond positive Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Defining a successful partnership can - and should - include intangibles that go beyond a campaign's KPIs. It should include a willingness of your agency partner to invest the time and effort to not only know your business but your industry as well.

Is Everybody Happy?

Let’s start with the basic question, does my agency meet my business needs? This should be agnostic and answered by any member of your management team. Since the lines can blur between Marketing, Sales, IT and Finance, can your agency of record address the needs and concerns of each? In an ideal world, your Marketing Funnel is feeding qualified leads into your Sales Funnel, the IT Team is managing platforms that are supporting both, and the ROI on marketing expenditures warrants the investment. Easier said than done, I know! But if one of these elements are not properly accounted for in the agency's plan, chances are that they are not equipped to support modern digital marketing initiatives and your performance is suffering.

What do the numbers say?

If you don’t have one already, create an objective performance evaluation standard for your company that you can apply to any service being provided by a vendor partner. KPIs that map to company goals and objectives are the fastest way to identify any red flags that may require additional scrutiny. The context behind the KPIs may alter your perception of them, but if they are reasonable and mutually agreed upon, then you have an effective measure of performance. Keep it simple, keep it clear, and review regularly!

Does Industry Experience = Conflict of Interest?

Having experience in your industry can be a double-edged sword. When an agency specializes in an industry they often tout the depth of experience in the things that are relevant to your business. This can be very comforting as your business and your agency can speak the same “language”. That experience can come with a cost. If your agency also services your competitors, then the question becomes, who are they working for? Don’t get me wrong, it is possible for an agency to service an industry and avoid any conflict of interest. Discuss it openly! Ask the question: what is the plan to avoid any conflicts of interest? The right agency will have already developed a plan to avoid this scenario and will be willing to share it in detail.

Are Corporate Soul Mates a thing?

Are your corporate values mirrored (or appreciated) by your vendor/partner? A corporate identity not only says a lot about who the company is, but who they would likely align themselves with. The company’s values are THE foundational element that will determine how the company will treat its customers, their employees and yes, their vendors. Having a vendor with similar values is a strong indicator that you will be treated the same way you treat your clients. Like Mom always said, treat people the way you want to be treated.

Do you know the Doers?

It is not unreasonable to meet/know the people who perform the actual work on your account. Often times the client-facing employees are the only people whose clients are exposed to. Account Managers (I like them best ;), Project Managers and Strategists are great, but who are those “In the trenches”? The Specialists and Developers can make the difference between success and failure. They can have critical tribal knowledge that is only gained by rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. If your agency is hesitant to introduce you to the rest of the team, it could be a red flag.

Above are only a few items to be considered when measuring a successful partnership. Look for a company that is willing to be a part of your team. They should be willing and eager to have a seat at the table when you’re planning your company’s short & long term initiatives. If you are already working with an agency that ticks many of these boxes, then you will both be poised for success!

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