Collaboration in business relationships – report

Collaboration is a vital ingredient of high-performing client-agency teams, our latest data shows.

Managing multiple internal and external partners has long been a challenge for marketers. Now they must also juggle inter-agency team functions as well as disciplines across niche consumer targeting specialists and more. Collaboration among teams has become even more important.

This environment poses greater challenges among agencies as well. They must put self-interest aside and collaborate with friend and foe alike, with the single ambition of driving the client’s business forwards.

Changes over a decade

To understand how these issues affect client-agency teams, we filtered out questions and corresponding scores related to collaboration from more than 24,000 client-agency interactions in our database.

Surprisingly, when we compared the 10-year movement of the consolidated collaboration score clients gave agencies, we found very little movement.

So we delved deeper.

By correlating various functional elements we track with the overall evaluation score clients gave agencies and vice versa, we are able to rank their relative effect. We found that the collaboration score agencies gave their marketer clients had the strongest influence on the overall relationship evaluation score.

Collaboration and relationships
Source: Aprais database

This was not so for client evaluations of agencies. While not the most influential item we still see it as a crucial and increasingly challenging component of building stronger relationships. 

The differences

Our study also revealed interesting differences in collaboration scores by region and by agency service type.

Furthermore, when we compared the profile of best and worst performing clients and agencies (top/bottom 10%) we found that when it comes to collaboration, weaker-performing clients and agencies have the opportunity to close the gap on the best performers by 32 points.

Although working practices adopted during Covid have led to the physical separation of teams, we discovered data showing the majority of marketers say they now feel more connected to their managers, customers, colleagues and partners.

This suggests that online tools and ways of working are to some extent as effective as physical meetings and office bases.

However, research conducted among Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020 discovered that remote working can make the collaboration network of workers more static and siloed. It can be harder for remote workers to acquire and share new information.

Many marketers across the globe anticipate the future of working to remain hybridised or remote, but we should all be mindful that there are benefits to physical meetings and workspaces and virtual networking doesn’t appear to replicate these entirely.