Demand the best from your agency

Each year, money gets washed down the proverbial toilet through the mis-use of agencies of every kind. The inherent advantage of bringing in “new blood” from the outside can be a huge advantage in the development of direction, a creative concept, a branding strategy or whatever. Often, you bring in the expert not only for the additional capacity but because they know something you don’t know. However, this only works when you truly capitalize on the opportunity by continuing to demand the best and causing them to maintain a strategic link between their activities and your results.

The challenge is that due to your lack of expertise in that field, you may not know the right questions to ask in order to get the right results. I believe that in some cases, agencies get used to compromising their creative insticts to satisfy the unsophisticated customers demands. At one time, they probably tried to redirect their customers misguided enthusiasm toward solutions their experience tells them would be more appropriate. Talk about how you will work before you sign the paper. Be prepared to change your approach based on their recommendation. If you’re going to bring in some high-priced horsepower… hire someone you trust, clearly articulate your direction and hold them accountable to how their work supports your plan.

As time passes, many agencies tend to focus more on retaining the relationship than helping you achieve your strategic direction. We all find comfort in the familiar and enjoy companies knowing our business, but it’s important to keep your suppliers sharp.

Long term agency relationships are only valuable when they are connected to your strategic direction and are actively helping you to achieve it. The mark of a good consultant is that they bring not only subject matter expertise to the table, but they bring LEADERSHIP to the process.

Finally, if decisions are being made without a DIRECT connection to and understanding of the strategic direction, a red flag should be going up. Regardless of the direction you choose to make, you need to ensure that the tactics are reflective of what was decided on earlier or the disconnect will sabotage your results. Maintain a high level of specificity in the connections between these layers and you’ll be more likely to create the desired results. Without the connection, you will be uncertain of what your direction is likely to accomplish.

Sound off: Where is the plan?

Through recent indirect exposure to public organizations, I have become increasingly aware and frustrated with the lack of direction and focus in how many of these organizations are managed. I therefore ask the question:

If the rest of the world requires a sound business plan and strategic direction to survive, why do we demand no less of our government and public organizations?

The majority of the upper elected leaders are successful business people. If someone actually brought this approach to the table, I would probably vote for them, regardless of their views. This change would allow the country to articulate and balance priorities in a way that would be more open to the public and increase accountabiliy significantly.

Governments are voted in based on a number of things but too often the win comes down to their ability to sway the public at the last minute. I’m still waiting for one of these groups to bring a real plan to the table. Show me some research, and bring me a plan that clearly articulates the priorities, the balance and the long term objectives. Show me a scorecard of your performance at the end of the year to explain how we performed. Then, tell me how this direction is cascaded to all supporting levels of the government.

It would take 5 years to make it happen, but it would be the best money we ever spent… unless you think the Prime Minister needs more personalized golf balls.