Don’t Blame the Bait & Switch

One of the standard questions asked of agencies during an agency selection process is, “Can I meet the team who will work on my business?” This question often gets asked because of a concern that agencies showcase top talent during a pitch presentation and then put “junior or other” talent on the business, leading to what’s known as the “bait and switch.”

But here is the truth: agencies don’t get fired for the bait and switch.

They get fired for bad work. 

The answer I want to give to the “can I meet my team” question is not yet…you can’t meet the precise team that is going to work on your business, because not a single agency has a team of their best people sitting around waiting for your business, nor can we hold the perfect team in limbo during your selection process, which more often than not, doesn’t stick to its timeline. Furthermore, until we learn more about each other, how do we know how to staff the best team for you?

Don’t get me wrong, the team is the most important piece of the relationship equation, and I believe how a team works together is the best precursor for success between an agency and client. However, I believe the selection process is a job interview for the agency, not any one team or individual. Great performers in the room are not always the best practitioners, just like some of the best account people can’t sell in the room. Even if agencies could put together the perfect team during a defined pitch process, there are many other contributing factors toward success. The nature of the assignment, the decision makers, personalities and politics all play a role in what makes a good fit, and they change constantly. People come in and out of agencies, move accounts and sometimes seem like a fit and aren’t. Individuals alone do not make for success; it’s the collective relationship that matters most.

Perhaps the most important question shouldn’t be, “Who are the people who will work on my account?” But rather, “How do I find the right agency that understands us and meets the ever-changing needs of our communications function?”

The most effective way to get the answer is to build a relationship with your potential partner. The selection process should be a time to share information and get to know the agency and people in the right kind of environment. The questions that are more important than individual team members should focus on the systems, culture, structure and capabilities of the agency. If these areas match up, there is a higher probability of quality work and a long-term successful partnership.

Better questions for selecting an agency team include:

  • What systems do you have in place to help manage our relationship?
  • How do you bring specialists onto the team?
  • How do you manage projects?
  • How do you select the team that services our business?
  • What is your Profit & Loss (P&L) structure?
  • How do regions, practices and people work collaboratively with separate P&L structures?
  • How do you onboard new team members onto our business later in the relationship?
  • Will you ever switch up our team once it’s established? Why?
  • How do we communicate about issues and challenges?
  • Can we meet members of the team in small groups in a non-presentation setting?
  • Who will ultimately be responsible for my business?

A strong team is only as good as its agency infrastructure. The important thing is that a partnership has shared values and trust. So, instead of asking to meet the precise team, spend more time getting to know the agency culture, systems and people so you build the right team to do the right work at the right fee structure.


The Perils of Speed in 2018

Speed is a risk. I know this well; I am married to a professional Superbike Racer. My husband, Kevin, is a speed junkie and raced Superbikes for the past 10 years. We know the exhilaration… and the danger. In Superbike Racing, you may think speed is what wins, but like all races, speed is only part of it; planning, strategy, equipment, teamwork and conditioning are just as important to winning the race and completing it safely.

I have worked in PR and communications my whole career, a bit mundane compared to Superbike Racing, but spoiler alert; I haven’t had to retire because I crashed into a wall. Yet today, communications is moving faster than ever, and sometimes with catastrophic results.

The speed at which technology is advancing and business is moving is pushing how we communicate to hazardous levels. Even in communications, without proper planning, strategy, tools, integration and systems, we may be next to hit the proverbial wall. I suspect for some of the communications catastrophes of 2017 – from Sean Spicer to the Equifax breach – speed above all played a negative role. Security breach reports, misinformation, fake news, hateful rhetoric or tweeting without thinking all seem to be consequences of reckless speed to be first to share the news, facts be damned.

I fear the fallout will affect our notions of quality and truth around what we do, how we sell and who we are. The blame is on all sides of the equation: businesses, reporters, politicians and consumers all wanting to be first to “win.”

As a communications agency partnering with organizations to communicate internally and externally, we observe the demands and feel the pressure to move quickly. As organizations speed up development, advance products and leverage new technologies, they expect communications to follow suit. News is delivered faster, more often and on more channels. But that often means more mistakes, retractions and corrections.

So, how does the communications function keep up with and maintain quality and truth?

  1. Partner and listen to outside counsel – hire people outside the organization to provide a different perspective. Often, the work “has to get done” and the folks inside the organization are moving too fast to consider the full context of what is going on around them and what approach should be used.
  2. Integration and operational excellence support speed and accuracy. Chaos is never a good environment for quality communication. Understanding how to work effectively as an organization and with your partners can speed up your ability to disseminate news accurately. This includes clear roles and responsibilities, approval processes, fact checking, distribution and response readiness.
  3. You know the saying, “We never have time to plan but seem to have time to do it twice.” This is ultimately more time-consuming and costly. No matter how fast you must move, a plan is important, including agreement on objectives, strategies, tactics, metrics and vulnerabilities.
  4. Agree to an iterative approach. To keep from spinning out of control, take small, collaborative steps that move a project quickly through development and approval while providing the needed check and balances along the way.
  5. While things move at lightning speed around you, consider trial and error as a strategy. It may be impossible to know the success rate of a new distribution tool, but speeding to be the first to buy and use something can backfire with a lack of ROI. Piloting and experimenting are part of the new normal. Testing something on a small scale can provide the security needed to avoid making big mistakes when things are moving fast.

My husband was in first place when he hit the wall going 110 miles an hour. He can’t quite explain why, but believes he went into the turn too aggressively and should have taken care of that “sticky” throttle that was plaguing his bike. He was injured and retired.

Safety and security are at risk when we speed. Fast moving communications need guard rails, or we may pay with profound mistakes, damaged reputations and early retirement.


This post also appears on

Time to Make Your 2018 Marketing Budget Plan

Now is the ideal time to create your marketing budget plan for 2018. Here are a few things you might want to take into account in your planning.

  1. B2B companies are spending more on marketing than ever
  2. Marketing budget as a percentage of revenue varies by industry
  3. Expect to include sales enablement in your 2018 marketing budget

Marketing Budgets are on the Rise

Here is some good news for marketers! Budgets are on the rise. We have seen from several sources that marketing budgets are on the rise for the third consecutive year. According to the Gartner 2016–2017 Spend Survey, budgets on average have climbed to 12% of company revenue. Historically, we’d seen 10% of revenue as the standard.

Part of the reason for the rise is an increase in digital marketing spend and investments in websites. Over the past two years, the emphasis on a better web user experience and mobile responsiveness has driven more investment in creating an enhanced digital presence. Whereas in B2B the website was historically seen as a static piece of collateral, the website is now a central news and engagement hub, integrated with social media, CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Overall, digital marketing is pacing at a healthy 11% compound annual growth rate between now and 2021. But this is not the experimental “spend on anything to see what works” investment that we saw between 2008–2012.

— Forbes

More B2B companies are adding social media engagement into their mix as well. In a CMO Survey sponsored by Deloitte Digital, their results showed that at least half of B2B Product and B2B Services companies are now investing in social media.

Marketing Budget as a Percentage of Spend Varies by Industry and Size

Size does matter. According to the Gartner CMO Survey, larger companies (more than $5B annual revenue) are spending a whopping 13% of revenue, whereas smaller companies ($250M — $500M) spend about 10%. Spend also varies by industry. We see higher spend in early stage, high growth tech companies as they invest for acceleration in market penetration and adoption.

CMO Survey by the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Deloitte, and the AMA, shows that B2C categories such as consumer packaged goods commanded the largest budgets at 24% of overall. Tech Software and BioTech averaged the next highest percentage at 15%. Service Consulting spends 12% and Energy spends the least on marketing, at 4%.

Make sure that your marketing dollars are driving revenue growth. Gone are the days of mystery marketing and vanity metrics. Today, marketing numbers have to tie to revenue. And modern tools and analytics make that easier than before.

Adopting revenue attribution enables marketing leaders to change the conversation, using language the C-suite understands. By tracking marketing contribution and revenue attribution in a way that proves marketing’s impact on topline growth, CMOs take a crucial step toward building confidence and trust.


Include Sales Enablement in Your Marketing Budget Plan

With the growth of sales enablement, make sure that your 2018 budget encompasses sales enablement as well.

We have been talking about Sales Enablement throughout 2017. Depending on whether you have a formal Sales Enablement function, or it is spearheaded by sales or marketing, don’t forget to make sure that you create a section in your budget for Sales Enablement.

Find out where you are on the Sales Enablement Journey. DownloadOinkodomeo’s Sales Enablement Maturity Model Guide.

Ultimately, ensure that Sales Enablement isn’t given tasks but starved of budget. It makes sense to place Sales Enablement with the manager with the budget.


Last year, eMarketer reported that a third of US B2B marketing and sales professionals said their enablement budgets increased at double-digit rates between 2015 and 2016 with technology taking up most of that number. We expect that trend to continue or even accelerate this year with the increased awareness and conversations around sales enablement. We anticipate that 2018 is the year that sales enablement takes a permanent place in the marketing budget plan.


This post originally appeared on Oinkodomeo’s Kathleen Glass is a Strategic Advisor for Wye Communications.

Forget Me Not


What is the best strategy to attract and retain customers?

To answer a question with more questions:

  • Is it a never-ending cycle of too good to be true deals? #BOGO
  • Is it social media so appealing that you keep wanting more? #YOLO
  • Or is it the brand experience that you’re all about? #FOMO

Customer satisfaction has been elevated to unimaginable heights given the rise of social media. While social media is nothing new, it has completely changed the way we communicate, interact and make decisions. It’s in every fabric of our lives – whether we like it or not. As soon as we start drilling down into what the implications of those changes are, we quickly realize the answers are in the data.

Access to data on customer behaviors, preferences and purchase habits show us there is more to understand than the one-size-fits-all model of generational profiles. Now our data goes further; for example, a millennial who is a workout warrior, passionate about corporate social responsibility, watches CNN and posts actively on Instagram. These audiences need non-stop attention – there is no more business as usual – any stalling or failure to comply will equal irrelevance in your customer’s mind.

While we know more, we are also exposed to more than ever before. Every decision has a consequence and we live in a world where reputation and loyalty can be shattered by one bad experience, whether your own or as seen on social media. The bonds between customer and company need to be stronger than ever. They need to attract not just one customer characteristic but a diverse set of interests and experiences while matching their beliefs. That’s asking a lot from a brand!

So the question is, how does a brand become so valuable that it will gain your loyalty for years to come?

  • Listen to your customers – it sounds simple – but too many brands aren’t listening intelligently. Tools that allow you to find where the most relevant discussions are already taking place and identify the most important customer conversations can help.
  • Engage with your customers. There are many ways to do it. Communicate through social media and blogs, invite them to advise on research and development, build communities around your brand that brings compatible people together based on their interests, not just age.
  • Make sure the brand continually builds trust with its customers. Companies change, brands evolve and new products launch; communicating along the way is how to maintain trust.

Companies that are up for the challenge will find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It takes evaluating, reframing and pivoting toward what the future holds. It may sound intimating, but now is not the time to hesitate to do something different – it’s the leaders who blaze the paths for others to follow along. Let us help you navigate your next defining move before your competition does it for you.



This post also appears on

Influencers Hold the Purchasing Power

Over the past few years, we’ve all heard the term “influencers” as the buzzword within agencies, and even from our clients who want more information on what so called “influencer marketing” entails. Not only has technology given anyone with access to a smartphone the ability to be his or her own publishing company, it has given brands a whole new way to market to consumers authentically.

While there are folks out there who will argue that people won’t buy or click-through on the click-bait, I think those naysayers are not the ones following influencers. As for myself, I work in the PR and digital space and even did a master’s dissertation on the power of influencers. And yet, I follow influencers religiously and even though I am well aware of the industry that is behind that “#ad”— it doesn’t stop me. I will still click-through and like every outfit or link they share on their blog even though I am the person contracting these individuals to talk about my clients. I even insert these people into my everyday conversations like I know them personally (now, I know you are probably thinking I am the minority, but I can assure you, I’m not alone). It all stems from the fact that I can relate to these Instagrammers and I trust them. I trust they wouldn’t partner with a brand they don’t believe in and either way, if they can make a product look beautiful, so can I. It really is a fascinating phenomenon.

In the end, it all boils down to social media. If social platforms didn’t exist, these influencers wouldn’t have an outlet and we’d still be getting our wish lists from catalogs and magazines. Now millennials use Instagram as that visual source that makes them want to buy the latest and the greatest. According to new data from LendEDU, 52.9 percent of millennials say Instagram has the most influence on them when making shopping decisions.

While a portion of influencers’ posts are technically ads, the platform serves ads in an organic way.  A lot of Instagram followers use, which after liking a post, sends an email to their inbox with direct links to the website where they can buy the product(s) featured in the post content. So, while it is disclosed in a caption that the content is an ad, most users don’t even get to the point of reading that little hashtag, which is why it feels organic.

The point is, while a lot of brands get nervous about dipping their toe in the influencer pool and think this is just a fad, millions of people who buy their products and services are getting their information from Instagram and its influencers. I believe while the purpose of PR is truly ever-evolving, influencer marketing is about more than just changing brand perception. There is an ability to check ROI on click-through rates and purchases. The reality is, the next generation with purchasing power will evolve the industry further from traditional PR, as digital outlets will increasingly become where they are looking to drive their purchases.


This post also appears on Medium.

Iced Coffee with a Side of PR

Medium iced coffee, coconut milk, with sweetener.  That’s the coffee order of a new client at Wye Communications.  We had a morning meeting early in our relationship and on the way over I texted the client to ask if she wanted anything at Starbucks.  Now that order is burned into my brain.  Any time I head over for a meeting, I bring one with me.

I still remember prior clients’ lunch preferences, favorite beers, the sports their kids play, the authors they read, the music they like.  I have one former client who eats every single French fry or side dish on their plate before attacking the main course.

What does this mean – besides admitting I have a good memory for minor details of people’s lives?  It’s a point that I cannot reiterate enough – client service is a skill you can always be honing and improving.  We should not just be selling to our clients or thinking, “what’s in it for us?”  The client-agency world is a two-way street that starts and ends with relationship building.  It’s our job to both notice the big stuff and care about the small stuff.

Winning business and keeping clients long-term is significantly easier if you have a working relationship with them.  At Wyecomm, one of our first rules of engagement before bidding on a new client project is, “Do we know anyone at [X] Company?”  If we don’t, there’s a pretty good chance we aren’t going to win the business.  Likewise, if we don’t remember what format a client likes best in a status report, or if they prefer to communicate via text-versus-phone calls-versus-email, does it matter?  Maybe not at first, but over time if you can show them you care enough to remember without being asked, you move from being just their account person to their trusted counselor, and maybe even can make the jump to being their friend.

We work hard on behalf of our clients.  We just finished a whirlwind couple of weeks helping a client make a big announcement.  It was one of those times where days blur together and the normal 9-5 hours of agency-client contact turns into late night and early morning text messages.  We were with the client whenever and wherever they needed us – grabbing coffee, taking a breather over lunch, facilitating conference calls over three time zones (not my strongest suit) or waking up early to see if a big story posted.

When we finished the project, the client looked at the team and said (I’m paraphrasing here), “I’ll do anything you need me to do – you guys have been fantastic.”  And what could be better than that?


This post also appears on Medium.


Five Things I Learned at my First Job Out of College

Today marks month five at my first job out of college. Interestingly, the statistics show only a quarter of college grads work within their field of study. I majored in Psychology with a Minor in Business and landed an internship at a communications agency, Wye Communications.

I’ve learned a lot throughout my time with Wyecomm. I decided to pass along some of my insights picked up here to help new graduates who are looking for a glimpse into the working world before starting their first jobs, or perhaps, industry pros who want to look back and remember what it was like when they first started their professional journey. Regardless of which category of reader you fall into, I hope you can relate to some of this or can learn a thing or two from my experiences.

1. Get yourself on a schedule.

This goes beyond your 9-5 job. The days of staying up until two in the morning on a Tuesday night playing Call of Duty with your “boys” are sadly behind you. Learning how to manage your time both in and out of the office is one of the first and most important skills you need to master to be successful at your job and in life.

Commuting to and from work, work itself, working out five days a week and finding time to eat, all while maintaining a social life, was quite the struggle my first few months out of college. I was getting less than five hours of sleep a night and justifying it to myself with the mantra you’re fine, just drink more coffee. After a few sluggish months, I realized I would have to prioritize my sleep to be productive in both the office and the gym. Deciding the absolute minimum amount of sleep I would get a night was six hours (which is frankly still not enough) was the best decision I made.

2. No matter how well you did in school, you have a lot more to learn.

Don’t get me wrong, the value of a higher education is priceless, and I wouldn’t trade my years at the University of Kansas for anything, but I was not prepared for the daily nuances of office life upon graduating. I learned very quickly when starting my job that my education, whether I had my college diploma or not, was far from over.

Working in an office, and a start-up at that, I find I am learning something new every day. From corporate nuances, as small at starting an email with Hi and not Hey (thanks Adam) to the larger aspects of business, like building contacts and relationships, every day was a journey in learning how to become a professional businessman. Never underestimate the knowledge your coworkers can pass on to you, and listen carefully when they do bestow you with their wisdom.

3. Always ask for more.

Always may be a bit of a stretch-obviously don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too many projects-but as a new employee still learning the ins and outs of your business or industry, strive to take on as many different projects as you can handle.

Often, when you start a job as an intern or fresh out of college, you get stuck with a lot of the grunt work-and yes, sometimes it sucks. You have to start somewhere and this is your chance to show your coworkers, supervisors and higher-ups that there is no task too small, and just how efficient you can be in the workplace. Doing the grunt work, and doing it well, will be your ticket to the more advanced tasks and projects.

Whenever you have spare time, ask what you can do to make someone else’s workload lighter. They will be grateful for it and you will expand your knowledge base and experience within your field of work. This is your chance to explore different areas and carve out your interests within the company.

4. Ask questions.

Ask as many questions as you can. When you are just starting, it is better to get clarification on anything you are unsure of before you make a potentially catastrophic mistake (any mistake at this level probably won’t be catastrophic but I’m just trying to make a point).

This is something I often struggled with. I regularly found I was asking myself am I annoying him? Will she think I’m an idiot if I ask how to do that? Is this something I should already know? The answer to all those questions is no. Obviously try to figure things out on your own before asking someone for help, but there is no shame in asking questions when you’re not sure about something, so ask away! Also, sometimes asking smart questions can even make you look good.

5. Make friends.

I could go on and on about the value of networking, but I won’t-you can find limitless articles on that topic with a quick Google search. When I say make friends, I mean make FRIENDS. Some of the best memories working at this job have been the genuine connections I’ve made with people in the office. I found myself the only person in their 20’s playing basketball on Thursday nights with the SVP of our company and his friends. I’ve had great conversations about peoples’ families and weddings, and even had some fun trying to reserve YEEZYs with coworkers (no luck). Networking is important, but don’t underestimate the value of genuinely enjoying the people you work with five days a week

This blog also appears on Medium.


Shift Happens

What came first? Change in the way humans live, buy and share information, or was it new technology that disrupted life as usual?

Either way, shift happens. For the fast and flexible, that shift is an exciting opportunity; for the slow and established, it is a scary proposition.

I have been given the opportunity to build a new agency under a new holding company during the greatest shift in the marketing communications industry that I can remember. Along with my team, we have decided that it is time to disrupt a system and an industry that can do better. We are experienced agency folks who know what works and what doesn’t and we believe two critical areas are ripe for change: the relationship and how data informs the way we work.

The relationship is the most important aspect of building success between client and agency. A more modern spin on a successful relationship — even when one partner is paying — is based on mutual trust and sharing, period. In other words, it’s not only about the client and it’s not only about the agency. The magic happens in the middle, where respect, culture and most importantly, sharing of information happens.

So, what do we mean by sharing of information? We work in the age of big data, data mining and data sharing. We must connect more information than ever before to provide insights that help develop business solutions with a higher certainty of outcomes.

This is no easy task.

We can’t make it up and we can’t fake it.

Often public relations is brought in to develop messaging, identify channels or work to place stories among influencers and media. However, to successfully move forward with those steps, there is work that needs to be done first. It starts with asking WHY we are doing it. What is the business goal? Once that is clear, we can build a hypothesis that can be proved or disproved by analyzing customer data and interaction.

Until recently, measuring agency success of PR programs has been elusive. Even with metrics in place, PR was not always solving the business problem, and even if it was, it couldn’t get the credit. Our industry needs a new mindset along with new skill sets to harness data; this is true for agency and in-house communications departments alike.

Ultimately, effective use of data can move the PR industry from guessing to knowing. We call it predictive communications, and it can only happen in a true partnership where information — both inside and outside the company — is shared, along with a carefully ordered road map that sets the stage for success. It is a new order that puts communications at the table earlier in the process.

Without the clear identification of business goals and analyzing customer data from both inside and outside the organization, communicators may not be solving the right problem, and consequently, unsuccessful in making a measurable difference. As shift happens, the client-agency partnership needs a new mindset about the role of its communications counsel and how it will harness and share data. #modernagency

This blog post also appears on Medium 

Complacency – It’s Real

Full disclosure: I worked on the same client for approximately 12 years.  In the agency world, that’s an eternity.  There were a lot of highs and a few lows – that’s normal for any agency-client relationship.  What’s not normal is working on the same client for so long.  PR agencies seem to convince themselves that extended continuity on a client is a selling point or a badge of honor – while other agency partners outside the PR space seem to change out people every six months.

It’s a double-edged sword. Continuity and long service on a piece of business allows for intimate knowledge into a client’s innerworkings and desires, but at the same time, it allows account teams to fall into the dreaded trap of complacency.

We work on the same pieces of business and deal with the ebbs of flows of working with clients.  They can be fantastic, fulfilling relationships – usually sprinkled with a dash of frustration and tongue biting.  Client work can end up taking you to trade shows, far-flung locales, crazy events and everything in-between.  But after the dust settles, you’re back to the status calls, client meetings and brainstorms.  It can – and does – get repetitive.

It’s usually a slow deterioration.  You send new recommendations that your team is excited about.  You’re armed with insights and research backing up your ideas.  Your team nails it in the room.  But for whatever reason, the client passes.  You plead your case (or not) and lick your wounds.  And you keep trying and trying.  But then you make a standard recommendation because you know it’s going to get approved.  And it does.  This is the beginning of the slippery slope.

I’ve talked with coworkers about giving clients what they need versus what they want.  It’s hard when you try to advocate for your agency’s ideas and they get shot down.  Why keep fighting?  Why keep pushing your clients when you know they won’t approve something?  Because it’s what we need to do.  However, there are other approaches we need to take to ensure teams do not start mailing it in on their clients’ behalf.  We must:

  1. Change out team members on a regular basis.  Workers get bored and frustrated with clients.  We need to keep client teams fresh and invigorated.
  2. Don’t get frustrated.  If you throw 100 ideas at a client, the 99th may be the one they ultimately choose.  Continue to be proactive and informed about your clients’ challenges so you can anticipate their needs.
  3. Broaden your scope of information sources – in this day and age, your worldview is hyper-cultivated to fit your beliefs.  Open your mind to different strains of information – it will help you in the end.

Ultimately, for a truly successful client-agency relationship, the client needs to be on board.  Clients need to be open to fresh ways of thinking and welcome new agency team members.  They need to arm agency partners with the information, background and insights to ensure on-strategy recommendations and a healthy, long-lasting relationship.


This blog post also appears on Medium 

Why Doesn’t My Agency Get Me?

In a recent leadership group discussion with CMOs and CCOs, I heard questions and comments such as:

Why doesn’t my agency get me?

Stop selling me.

Don’t tell me about another methodology, everyone has one.

These are fair comments that do not signal a strong partnership between agency and client, and frankly, the client isn’t the only one complaining. Why is there frustration on both sides? This got me thinking about relationships. A client-agency relationship should be no different from any good partnership, personal or professional. The good ones are mutually beneficial, communicate truthfully and treat each other fairly. When it comes to business partnerships, companies don’t choose companies, people choose people.

Let’s Blame the Client First

The breakdown can begin early and is sometimes the fault of an organization and its process for selecting an agency. Often this process is shrouded in secrecy, doesn’t provide any meaningful interaction among the people who may be working together in the future, and the problem is exacerbated by being procurement-led. The most important part of getting to know and understanding someone is the time spent talking with them. Meaningful interaction has different meaning to different people, especially in a time of texting, tweeting and emailing, but old rules still apply: face-to-face interaction helps build trust. An important aspect of those connections is the sharing of pertinent information. For some reason, there is a prevailing thought that the client can get to know the agency by “testing” them. Perhaps there can be a benefit to the idea of putting a potential agency in “test” mode, but this is not realistic of how the agency and client will work together in the future. So why is it done during the most important time in relationship building? The best outcomes are realized through shared planning and discussion. More information and aligned expectations allows the agency to show their best work and the client to choose the best fit for their organizational culture and business needs.

Chemistry is a Science, Not a Feeling

Meeting at the formal presentation for the first time is the most peculiar and detrimental action of all. No one in that room — the client team judging the presentation or the agency presenting — are in a “real” working environment behaving how they would day-to-day. Sometimes these formal meetings are called a “chemistry check.” Really? Chemistry is the branch of science that studies the properties of matter and how matter interacts with energy — one meeting or interaction is not an effective way of measuring positive or negative energy — nor does it represent the many different scenarios or personalities that will be working together in a long-term partnership.

Now Let’s Blame the Agency

After all, the agency is the one getting paid; they should be on their best behavior. Agency teams mean to behave appropriately, but are not set up to do so. The misalignment in operational and financial structures are often the culprit. A fragmented P&L structure, either by geography or practice area, does not encourage collaboration or making the right choice for the client. This structure has agency leadership worried about “hitting a number” instead of putting the needs of their partner first.

Lack of scalability and having to keep everyone billable affects quality of service, often putting “who is available” on the business instead of the right talent. It often builds an atmosphere of nervousness to remain billable no matter what, and can lead to doing the wrong work. Additionally, the billable hour encourages clients NOT to call its agency. It may be time to rethink the compensation model for a true agency-client partnership.

Adding to the frustration felt by clients is the agency’s need to entice the client with methodologies that are all about “our process.” I can’t think of the last CMO or CCO that wanted to hear about how the agency sausage-making works. Spending time focused on solutions to business challenges or telling clients something they don’t know is how the C-Suite wants to spend time with its agency, not learning how it gets done. Methodologies should be about adapting solutions to problems and leveraging new tools. Talking about it is exhausting; integration and operational excellence to get the job done is all the client wants.

A Partnership that Communicates

A strong partnership needs consistent, open communication right from the start. The client should set the stage with a selection process that includes an investment of time spent providing information and building a relationship. The agency needs to fit the client’s organizational culture and stay focused on listening and solving their problems. Together, the client-agency relationship can flourish into a true partnership that results in a mutually-beneficial outcome.