In a recent meeting with a client, I finally heard the magic words every (I hope) marketing agency wants to hear…”I trust you”. A little bit of background on this particular client: they have been spotty this past year. Projects are scoped but never signed off on. We start campaigns, we pause campaigns, reduce budget here, cut budget there. We even heard the dreaded “We want to do this with you, but we’re going to do it internally”. It’s been a rocky road to say the least. But something happened in this meeting that I wasn’t expecting and immediately made me think we’ve turned a corner. The client said “I trust you”.

In Q1 of this year, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) conducted surveys among their members and agencies on client/agency relationship issues. Here were the key findings:

  • Their client/agency relationships are strong.
  • A long term client/agency relationship is important.
  • They trust the other.

On top of this, clients and agencies agree that the agency is a “valued business partner”. The agency “plays an important role in the client’s business strategy” and “is influential in driving business results.”

Not everything in this survey was sunshine and rainbows, particularly in regard to client input and review process. Nevertheless, hearing the phrase “I trust you” is agency nirvana. This means the client is giving the agency breathing room. Room to be innovative. Room to take risks. There has been an “unprecedented trend of media agency reviews” this year. Twenty major companies that spend a combined $25 billion in media are reviewing their agency partnerships. If these companies trusted their agency to do a great job for them, they wouldn’t be putting the work up for bid. So how do you know if you can trust your agency? Ask yourself these 3 questions:

Do you ever hear ‘no’?

We aim to please in this business. But at what cost? No agency should always say ‘yes’. If they do, they probably lack insight into your business goals and objectives. They aren’t focused on outcomes. Just lining their pockets.

Do they offer tactics or a strategy?

Every agency, especially digital ones, can get caught up in the newest shiny object or buzzword tactic. But does this fit into your overall marketing goals? Or is it something cool and new to ‘test’? Make sure to ask a lot of questions about these new ways to reach and connect with your audience. The main one being, how does this fit into my overall strategy?

Do you know the folks working on your campaign?

If you’ve ever been through the agency review process, you probably had the meeting where smooth talking agency executives presented sharp looking PowerPoints that contained industry jargon you didn’t understand. How many of those people have you ever seen or talked to again? Chances are none to maybe once. Instead, your account (depending on how much you spend) is given to the junior level account coordinator, aka the person you talk to on a daily basis, and your media campaign or new logo design has been assigned to the junior level associate that you’ve never been in a meeting with. Sure, the work is reviewed by a mid-level manager, but that’s the extent that the agency is working on your project. Get to know the team behind the scenes. Ask if you can meet with everyone to understand who is working on which facet of your business.

Trust is important. Don’t be afraid to ask your marketing agency tough questions. Look for a partner that is genuine and is engaged in your marketing goals. We use trust in our personal lives to evaluate our relationships, so why not apply it to your business as well?