Want Better Agency Relationships? Try This.



Want better relationships with your agencies?  Ever wondered how your incumbent agency is really doing or what areas you should be focusing on to help improve your agency relationships?

Why not ask? Internal stakeholders – those actually interfacing with agency on a day-to-day basis and the agencies themselves can provide some surprisingly helpful insights

The answers may not only surprise you, you may end up creating efficiencies, improving performance and securing incremental value. And if it’s been in the back of your mind, potentially heading off and saving yourself the trouble of conducting an agency review.

Based on stakeholder reviews we’ve conducted for marketers over the last few years, here the top five issues you can help identify and resolve:



One of the most valuable messages stakeholders provide is around the quality of resources working on their business. While some stakeholders may be delighted with the quality of their team, others may be frustrated. Pinpointing exactly where the resource weakness(es) are helps you provide specific feedback to the agency. It’s also an opportunity to share positive feedback from stakeholders so the agency can communicate that feedback to their internal teams. Positive reinforcement helps the agency retain staff on your business for longer, providing consistency and bench-strength over the longer term.


We’ve written in previous blogs that the number one issue we hear from marketers is “we’re paying too much…”  Yet when we ask “what do you think you should be paying…?” the response is often – “I don’t know – but it’s still too much.”

One of the very quick ways to pinpoint cost issues is through the stakeholder interview process because stakeholders working on the business will identify problem areas which may have nothing to do with actual costs, and more to do with the process around them. It might be lack of transparency around estimates, problems with billing, questions around tracking hours – or it may be a very specific pain-point around say, studio costs that are otherwise casting a darker shadow over an otherwise healthy cost framework.


Ever had things fall through the cracks or consistently cause problems? The problem may be a localized communication issue that could reside either within the agency or within your own marketing teams, and fixing it could dramatically improve the relationship. Stakeholder interviews have a habit of weeding out the wheat from the proverbial chaff so you can pinpoint specific communication challenges within relationships – even if they ultimately reside on your side of the fence.

Scope issues

What you thought might be resourcing, cost or communication issues may turn out to be definitions of challenges with scope. Stakeholder interviews can help identify areas of scope creep or even agency mandate that are otherwise interfering with the agency’s primary mandate. Whether it’s resolving scope creep, or clarifying mandates with the agency (or your team), you can make informed decisions that can help focus the agency – and your team – on the projects you want completed and the results you want them to achieve.


Stakeholder interviews can also help identify areas within your teams, your agency teams, or between agencies that aren’t fostering collaboration. This can help pinpoint specific vertical functions that need proactive adjustment to help deliver on your requirements. Again, by identifying the specific areas that are causing issues you can make a better, more informed assessment as to how your agency relationships are performing.


It’s important to understand that a stakeholder interview process isn’t a substitute for a regular agency evaluation process designed to assess short-term performance and set expectations and KPIs. Stakeholder interviews are typically useful every two to three years within the agency lifecycle, to take the temperature of your agency relationship, or when you’re encountering turbulence that is impeding your ability to have your agency meet expectations.

Stakeholder interviews always work best when conducted by a third party simply because you want teams on both sides to feel they have someone who’s not vested in the relationship to help listen with a neutral perspective.

So if you’ve never done stakeholder interviews before, or have deeper questions about your agency relationship that you’d like answered – what’s stopping you from finding out now?


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Sadie Hernandez