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.