How much trust do you have in your marketing agency? Do you know when is the right time to step in or step back? 

When you first begin to form your agency-client relationship, there will be a feeling of potential. Both sides should be excited, and ready to take risks in the interest of the business. 

But what’s perhaps more important to focus on is what happens going forward, and how the relationship is built. If trust is lacking, one or both parties will be disappointed. 

Trust takes time, and these types of partnerships feature several phases. Here are some tips for understanding how to gauge whether your involvement is necessary at any given phase of your relationship. 

How to Build Trust in a Marketing Agency 

Make sure it’s the right fit 

You wouldn’t hire just any candidate, why should your agency search be any different? A key to building trust in a marketing agency involves first finding a great match. Besides making sure the agency has the appropriate depth and type of experience, they should have a similar approach to work processes. 

Consider asking these questions in the interview to get a feel for whether they will be a good match: 

  • How often do you typically meet with clients? 
  • Do you normally meet in person, via video conference, etc.?
  • Can you describe a typical day with regards to workflow and processes? 
  • What project management tools do you use?
  • How do you handle feedback and approvals on creative? 
  • What do you consider a “failure” when it comes to clients?
  • Have you ever lost an account, and if so, why?

Focus your agency briefing document and contracts

The exercise of writing a detailed brief will help your team develop a clear understanding of what’s needed and is a key part of setting expectations. This will remove the need for constant consultations and remind all parties of processes and standards.

 A focussed agency briefing document that features detailed insights can be the basis of your project contract. This can be a great baseline with which to build trust in a relationship. Be sure to include contract negotiation parameters in your contract. 

I have years of experience offering strategic marketing support to major brands, and I have a free briefing template to help you establish expectations. Let me know if you’d like one! 

If in doubt, do step in (but be polite)

When you are wondering whether or not to step in, a good rule of thumb is to gently ask questions and offer more information, rather than less. It’s never a good idea to step in and take control of your agency’s projects, but a good account manager will appreciate your valuable questions and polite, constructive feedback. 

Missed deadlines and things “slipping through the cracks” are classic client frustrations. When promises aren’t kept it can lead to client-agency relationships eroding very quickly. The great clients set a strong example of always meeting their commitments and deliverables to the agency.  

Mind your manners 

Business managers are stressed-out people who are used to delegating and getting things done. But when it comes to any newer business partnership, it’s important to remember that manners and patience are key to building trust. When agency partners feel they’re being treated right, just in little, day-to-day ways, they’re more likely to give you their best. A reputation for being courteous helps enormously when you need to have a difficult conversation with the agency.

Ask (good) questions 

Communication is a two-way street. Listen carefully to suggestions and ideas just as they will listen to you. Don’t assume people will just know what to do or that talking forever will be helpful. Ask them how they can help, and what they think, and be open to their suggestions. The more questions you ask, the clearer both sides will be with regard to expectations and marketing plans.  

Pay well & on time 

If you are noticing that you may be getting less time from the agency staff or projects are beginning to slip, check your payable situation. The last thing you want is the agency feeling resentful because you haven’t paid them for everything they have done for you in the last three months. Make it your mission that the agency gets paid on time. 

Meet them where they are and let them lead 

You may be tempted to step in and give advice when it comes to creative problem-solving, but an agency worth its weight is there to solve problems for you. The most motivating clients know that their role is to identify and communicate the issue and its impact on the business. They hire the agency to creatively solve the problem and give the team the freedom to do so. 

Start Building a Great Agency Partnership Today

Things aren’t always going to go smoothly in your partnership. But when you set realistic expectations, stay flexible, remember to listen, and give and receive constructive feedback, you will be well on your way to building trust in a marketing agency.

I can help you build a strong relationship with your best-fit agency. I offer marketing agency search and performance management services to organizations looking to partner with great marketing agencies.

Contact me for more information!

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you: