6 ways we're fixing the lopsided agency:client relationship

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Category: Agency life

Today at Influence Agents, we’re announcing some sweeping changes to the way that we serve and work alongside our valued clients.

For some time now, we’ve positioned ourselves as “Mutinous Marketers and Humble Humans”. Whilst we’ve always prided ourselves on providing value to our clients, we’ve still found ourselves guilty of perpetuating a number of “traditional”, lopsided and frankly wrong terms of engagement that aren’t deserving of the labels “mutinous” or “human”. We can do better.

So, what’s wrong? 

We do our utmost to keep a finger on the pulse of agency:client relationships, putting communication at the very top of everything we do. As such, we get some invaluable insights into the expectations placed on us, by our clients and prospective clients, and a number of things present themselves that, if we were in their shoes, simply wouldn’t tolerate by choice.

Nearly all marketing and growth agencies seem to cling onto clients for as long as possible, irrespective of whether in-housing marketing operations would make more sense, and place unjustifiable merit on the outsourcing model.

Ask yourself the question… if you’ve engaged an agency to build and provide an effective, successful, optimal marketing and lead generation engine, why wouldn’t you want to own that engine? Why wouldn’t you transition that asset in-house and boost the value of your company into the bargain?

And that’s just one of many factors that favour the agency over the client. As part of our efforts to bring our Accelerated Inbound programmes to market, we’ve identified and hopefully rectified many others.

Here’s how...

1. WE'RE DITCHING RETAINERS

Retainers work for agencies. Depending on the associated terms, they project some much-needed confidence in cash flow forecasting, and provide a great base to build on with project sales. They give some confidence to clients, too, granted there is ultimate clarity on what’s being delivered.

Retainers can provide problems, however. There’s a constant chase to deliver against the agreed activities, which puts pressure on clients to push through revision requests and approvals in a timely fashion (we recognise this isn’t always easy), and with the agency’s desire to justify the retainer, and move to the next month’s activity, the logjam of outstanding tasks can become unwieldy. Nobody wins.

What’s the alternative?

We’re big advocates of quarterly campaigns. A 90-day programme allows focus on a key set of deliverables and targets. If assets take a little longer than planned to gain approval, we’re not jumping into the planning or creative phase for the next campaign “because retainer”, but instead remain focused on delivering one optimal phase of work.

No more retainers for us. 90 days of excellence, and when you’re ready… rinse and repeat!

2. NO TIE-INS

A lack of retainer doesn’t always mean you’re not tied in. We still see a great many agencies “locking in” their clients for a 12-month period. The excuse often provided is that your technology licenses run for 12 months, and your marketing support should align with that.

Hogwash.

Our 90-day Accelerated Inbound programmes are just that… 90 days.

3. A GUARANTEED OPTION ON ALL PROPOSALS

Agencies aren’t famous for backing themselves. When asked for a performance-based or pay-per-result arrangement, the excuses spew forth. The lack of any guarantee DEFINITELY works in the agency’s favour, and the reason why the words “trust”, “dark art”, “fingers burned” and many like it, are inextricably linked with agency:client dealings.

It’s not always entirely the agency’s fault. If a client provides a low budget, or worse still doesn’t cite one at all, then agencies will often propose activities and deliverables that swerve game-changing results, and deprive themselves of the channels and tactics necessary to guarantee a remarkable result.

Given the budget, any agency worth their salt should be able to guarantee a tangible deliverable, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. In partnering with Influence Agents, and where we believe we can help you, you’ll always receive a guaranteed-results option.

“OK”, I hear you say, “but we haven’t got a bottomless pot of cash to spend on marketing and lead generation”. That’s where our next declaration comes in...

4. VALUE-BASED PRICING

A lot of partnerships are doomed to failure, due to lack of planning, and mis-understanding of the potential value being provided. We’re in the privileged position of having a win-win situation at the heart of everything we do. When we deliver, our clients benefit from a pipeline full of qualified leads and sales opportunities, so identifying the commercial value is somewhat simple.

So how does value-based pricing work?

We complete an ROI planning exercise before we ask any new customer to sign up with us. This allows us to get a firm grip on the lifetime value of your customers, and design a variety of scenarios to ensure that whatever we propose, there’s a positive and acceptable return on offer. Our resulting efforts are designed exclusively around getting that result, so you can be sure that there’s an informed approach, and no “one size fits all”, cookie-cutter approach.

5. QUICKEST WINS FIRST

In the past, we’ve been guilty of providing a templated strategy to our clients, that covers a number of bases. Yes, there are lead generation offers and a well-positioned sales-qualified outcome, but there’s also a whole bunch of “content for content’s sake”.

Don’t misunderstand; blogging and social media activity is important, especially for growing your organic audience, and building discoverability, but it’s almost always a long game. A results-focused approach would park this activity for the “business as usual” phase of your marketing journey, but we were putting it up front!

No more.

Our quickest wins first strategy makes best use of what assets you already have, leverages any existing reach you may have, and combines this with a number of “accelerated” tactics, to ensure that we’re doing the absolute minimum, most-effective tasks necessary to deliver the desired result. If we feel you need your messaging dialled up, we’ll do it. If we feel you need a new lead magnet, we’ll do it. If we feel that PPC advertising will get you there, we’ll do it. There will be justification for everything, and no “fat”.

6. HELP TO TRANSITION, WITHOUT THE "CLINGINESS"

When we’ve built something that delivers - something of incredible value - we’ll help you to in-house your inbound marketing operations. We won’t get clingy. We won’t hang on tight to your ankles as you depart the building. We WILL do everything we can, to ensure that you continue the success you’ve enjoyed to that point.

Training, knowledge share, transfer of assets, and even help with recruitment into key marketing roles. Whatever help you need, we’re here to make sure that you realise the ultimate benefit of owning your own optimised marketing and sales operation.

So there we are. We’ve listened and changed course, to a path that we hope will better align us with B2B marketers, and start a small fire under the backsides of agencies everywhere. 

It would be folly to think that we’ve ticked every box however, so why not get in touch, and share your own thoughts on how agency:client relationships can be improved even further. We’d love to hear from you.

Book a strategy call with Influence Agents

 

Claire Hunter

About the author: Claire Hunter

Claire is the Customer Success Manager here at Influence Agents, and responsible for delighting all of our clients. She once bought 1 square foot of Scottish land so she could be referred to as 'Lady Claire of Glencoe'. You'll often find her memorising useless facts that will one day make her a game show millionaire.