The Role of Evaluation in Killer Agency-Client Relationships

This article is Part 4 in a series about successful advertising agency-client relationships. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Evaluation is another critical element of successful agency-client relationships – whether you’re referring to the almost-subconscious, ongoing mutual evaluation process that agencies and their clients go through almost every day, or the formal “should we renew or not” process that happens at the end of a campaign/scope of work.

In this article, we take a quick look at both the differences and common ground between agencies and clients when it comes to the evaluation process:

Evaluation “must-dos” on both sides of the fence:

Establish frequency and format. Both parties need to agree on the “when and how” of the feedback and evaluation process. Examples of questions you’ll need to answer: Will evaluation take place in person, via tele-conference, or during a phone call? How much supporting documentation is expected, if any? And so forth.

For long-term relationships, in addition to an end-of-contract evaluation, you might consider doing an informal quarterly “state of the union” call or meeting where you can identify and hammer out solutions to problems, talk about what’s working and what isn’t, and hand out the kudos that can sometimes fall by the wayside in the week-to-week rush of work.

Put some effort behind evaluation, even if it’s informal. Like a lot of Austin advertising agencies, we value personality, strategy and creativity over formality, 7 days a week. But even so, we like to see some structure when it’s time to talk about renewing. Without it, you run the risk of failing to communicate key points or ask key questions.

For clients, it’s helpful to remember to:

Keep it honest. Want to know a common agency frustration? Hint: It has to do with clients who unexpectedly sever ties or significantly reduce scope of work without really ever saying why. Courtesy and diplomacy during the evaluation process are certainly appreciated and expected. But at some point, we’d rather hear “We just don’t care for your work” or “We’re burned out on you and in a mood to hire someone else” than non-reasons – or even worse, radio silence.

Criteria that clients should think about incorporating into their evaluation process includes:

Timeliness: Was the agency on-point when it came to meeting deadlines or communicating when there was an unexpected glitch?

Focus: Did you have the agency’s undivided attention during calls and meetings?

Integrity: Was the agency quick to own up to and correct mistakes?

Transparency: Did the agency do an adequate job of documenting and justifying how it spent your money?

Outlook: Now that you’ve worked together, does the agency’s approach to marketing and advertising appear to benefit your business?

Leadership: Is the agency too quick to say “yes”, instead of speaking up and offering a different opinion when they think you need to hear it?

Price: Are the agency’s prices for the next contract in line with your budget, and if not is there room to negotiate?

Outcomes: Has the client helped you understand what positive outcomes have happened as a result of their work on your behalf?

Partnership: Do you view the agency as a strategic partner, or merely a vendor?

(Speaking of evaluation criteria, here’s a resource for you: “Top 10 Criteria To Consider When Evaluating Your Ad Agency”, from the American Marketing Association)

Okay, now it’s the agency’s turn to evaluate. Some of the criteria you’re going to want to consider includes:

Integrity: Did the client take ownership of mistakes, or were they too quick to point fingers and place blame on your doorstep?

Availability: Did the client make themselves available for input and direction, or did they expect you to produce results with little care and feeding on their part?

Responsiveness: Was the client smart about listening to your expert opinion, or did they demonstrate a closed mind whenever disagreements about strategy arose?

Work relationship: Was the client someone you looked forward to working with each week, or at least didn’t dread working with?

Margins: What were the bottom-line people hours required to pull off each deliverable? Did you end up realizing profit that’s within market standards for that particular service?

Respect: Was the client respectful and courteous in giving feedback, and realistic and reasonable about troubleshooting when the need arose?

Related Articles:
“Is Your Agency Bilingual in Data AND Creative?”
“The 5 Secrets of Awesome Agency-Client Relationships”

Looking for a new marketing/advertising agency partner? We’d love to know more, so let’s talk.