The link between marketing procurement and client-agency relationships is a vital, yet often underestimated aspect of the industry.
In the dynamic world of marketing, fostering strong and lasting client-agency relationships is of paramount importance. Let me share my thoughts on how marketing procurement can help strengthen client-agency relationships.
“Three sides of an equilateral triangle”
When it comes to managing the client-agency relationship, effective marketing procurement can’t function in a vacuum. It is a symbiotic relationship with both the marketing team and the agency; after all, marketers are responsible for briefing the agency and empowering them to do their best work. Ensuring quality output helps builds business.
In my previous roles in both agency teams and marketing, as well as marketing procurement, I saw first-hand the importance of close collaboration between procurement, the marketing team and the agencies.
Marketing procurement can help strengthen the client-agency relationship and it’s in everyone’s interests to actively engage procurement in the process.
Unique challenges for marketing procurement
Marketing services are distinctive due to their creative and subjective nature. Unlike traditional goods and services, marketing is often tailored to specific campaigns, making it more difficult to measure and define. These services involve close relationships between the marketing and agency teams where chemistry is important, so the key to success for the procurement team is a collaborative and partnership-oriented approach.
The ever-changing nature of marketing also means that contracts need to be flexible to accommodate shifts in scope and unexpected changes in timelines and deliverables. The procurement team needs a different approach to colleagues working in more traditional areas.
Pricing is usually bespoke, based on the scope rather than on a published ratecard or benchmark. Measurement and ROI calculations are also complex, involving metrics such as brand awareness and customer engagement, which depend on 3rd party (consumer) behaviour.
Agency and marketer responsibilities
Agencies and marketers have equal responsibilities in maintaining healthy relationships. Agencies should remain open to client feedback, provide timely responses to client requests, and promote positive information sharing across agency teams. Marketers, on the other hand, should provide clear and inspiring written briefs, offer constructive, aligned feedback, and ensure all decision-makers are well-informed, including the procurement team.
How marketing procurement can help strengthen the relationship
Effective marketing procurement is built on communication. It’s important that procurement understands the language of their stakeholders, their KPIs and the marketing/advertising processes. By understanding how marketing teams and their agency partners affect each other’s work, procurement professionals can help smooth processes and improve overall performance.
Maintaining a balance between effective supplier relationship management and preserving the close relationship between marketers and agencies requires robust, yet sensitive communication skills.
What is important is to keep the communication flow with the agency as well as your marketing colleagues.
Identify signs of relationship strain
It is essential to recognise early signs of a deteriorating relationship, often indicated by communication problems, decreased trust, disagreements, or unilateral decision-making. Open and honest communication is crucial to finding solutions and repairing the relationship.
Understanding the role of marketing procurement
Marketing procurement should function as an enabler for both marketers and their communications partners, helping them achieve their objectives efficiently and cost-effectively. Effective relationship management often involves regular behind-the-scenes support for both parties.
Engaging with agencies
Collaborative discussions with agencies can help improve processes and lead to better outcomes. This includes discussing key milestones, timelines, communication, and feedback processes. Procurement professionals should also explore alternative agency remuneration frameworks that reflect the deliverables and should ensure KPIs are aligned, providing clarity to both teams on what is in scope and what is not.
Communication is the linchpin in strengthening client-agency relationships. Some of the most common challenges we see at Aprais revolve around poor or partial communication, such as a lack of written briefs, limited information sharing, and frequent late changes to briefs or feedback. Regular check-ins with both parties will help procurement identify where this is happening and how communication can be improved.
Why stronger relationships are important
You might be asking why, in a time poor climate, companies should focus on building stronger relationships with their agency partners?
Our consultancy across thousands of relationships has revealed that stronger client-agency relationships:
- Are more cost efficient (and effective)
- Produce higher quality work
- Build valuable shared knowledge
- Motivate staff to go the extra mile for each other
- Bridge the gap between corporate cultures
We recently collaborated with WARC (The World Advertising Research Center) in a landmark study. Cross matching campaigns that had won advertising effectiveness awards over a 9-year period with evaluated relationships in our database, we found conclusive evidence that winners had stronger client-agency relationships. In short, they were more likely to achieve higher scores for both the agency and the client than our database average.
This represents a real win-win-win situation:
- Agencies achieve acknowledgement for their work and potential enhanced remuneration
- Marketers see campaign KPIs exceeded and improved sales, share, awareness
- Procurement have tangible evidence of the added value of the investment, both financial and the time taken to build the relationship
Marketing procurement can play a vital role in improving client-agency relationships. By recognizing the unique challenges of marketing services, aligning objectives, and fostering effective communication, marketing procurement professionals can help build stronger, more successful collaborations between marketing teams and their agency partners. This 3-way partnership is the key to driving effective marketing and ensuring a seamless working relationship between clients and their partners.
To find out more about how marketing procurement can help strengthen client-agency relationships, contact Beth here.
Beth Lewis is Head of Client Service at Aprais. She has over 30 years’ experience working in marketing, advertising and procurement. She has held senior roles at OMD, MEC, J Walter Thompson, Chris Ingram Associates, PepsiCo International and Bourne Leisure. She is a past winner and judge of the Media Week Awards and received a Chairman’s Award at PepsiCo.