For better relationships, improve your functional skills

On-the-job skill among team members is the most critical factor for creating successful client-agency relationships, and it’s growing as a priority.

Figures from Aprais’ global database of more than 25,000 client-agency evaluations over 20 years show that functional skill – a team’s ability to do the job in their scope – is the most important attribute for clients and agencies alike within top performing teams.

The impact on overall evaluations

Functional skill is one of seven behaviours we benchmark including Communication, Accountability; Challenge; Goals; Trust; and Resilience.

For marketers evaluations of their agency, functional skill shows the strongest influence over the total evaluation score. It also among the most critical for agency evaluation of their client.

Another way to view the importance of functional skills is comparing the weakest 10% versus the strongest marketer and agency scores in our database. This reveals where opportunities exist to close the gap on best- in-class peers. As is evident from the charts below, the gap in functional skills between the best and the rest is substantial.

Weaker scoring agencies have an opportunity to improve by 36 points, by boosting their ability to perform the day-to-day. Both agencies and clients have clear opportunities to improve their relationships by boosting their functional skills. Marketers too have a considerable opportunity to close the gap with their best performing peers.

Functional skill
Source: Aprais 25,000 evaluations
What do we mean by functional skill?

We can define functional skill as the effective application of knowledge and experience to achieve a professional result. This requires a combination of formal and informal study to keep professional knowledge up to date, and experience earned over time.

On the job skills

For clients, functional skill relies on having a thorough understanding of the principles of marketing, the brand and its competitors, and a good knowledge of how to work with agencies to use their capabilities to the full. In practical terms this could mean improving clarity of briefing, organising and unifying work flows, and improving basic processes like financial management.

And for agencies, an up-to-date understanding of the scope they’re being paid to deliver and digital awareness regardless of service provided are vital.

Functional skill over time

By comparing data over the past 10 years, we can track how functional skill has changed relative both to other behaviours, and to overall relationship scores.

As the graph below shows, at the start of the decade functional skill had one of the lowest scores of all behaviours, at 74. But by 2021, this score had jumped eight per cent, to nearly 80.

Functional skill
Source: Aprais 25,000 evaluations

This change reflects the growing appreciation and importance of teams’ functional skill.

How agencies can improve their scores

  1. Accumulate and apply learning from experience within, and beyond, a client’s category.
  2. Show attention to detail from planning stage all the way through to execution.
  3. Use research and understanding of consumer contact points when developing strategies.
  4. Make sure recommendations are solid, thorough, factually supported and maintain brand integrity at all stages.
  5. Never stop learning – stay up to date on all aspects of the profession, and digital as standard.

How clients can improve scores

  1. Make sure briefs are clear, thorough, inspiring, timely and in keeping with brand strategy. Evaluate work against the brief.
  2. Handle financial matters efficiently and accurately, and make sure agencies are paid on time.
  3. Maintain high levels of professionalism and consistent application of agreed brand policies across the client team.
  4. Actively educate agencies about the brand, business and organisational culture.
  5. As per agencies, above, never stop learning.

Download our report on Functional Skills here.

Functional Skills