Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Search Agency?

By Tom Kuthy, VP, Strategic Partnerships

In my last blog post, I asked if your search agency was acting like a vendor or a true business partner. The agency acting like a business partner proactively brings the client strategic ideas and recommendations which are truly aligned with the client’s business goals. The vendor relationship, on the other hand, is characterized by the agency tactically reacting to client’s direction while keeping an eye on the agency’s own business goals.

Obviously, most clients would prefer the business partner situation, but in my experience the client’s own actions can degrade the agency relationship. Here are four tongue-in-cheek ways for clients to get vendor-like behavior out of their agency:

  1. Beat the agency fees down to the lowest possible level – Agencies make their money by selling you the services of their employees. Of course the agency is going to try to sell you the highest price employees they’ve got. If you beat them down on the fees, you will get the lowest paid people in the agency working on your business. You don’t want to waste your money on the really smart strategic people at the agency that command the highest salary. Let those guys and gals work on other accounts.
  2. Don’t include your agency in your strategy sessions – If you want your agency to remain tactical, an easy way to accomplish this is to refrain from sharing your strategy with them. If you keep them guessing about your strategy when it comes time to review their performance you have a great way to ding them for not being strategic. This is a “win-win” tactic for the client.
  3. Don’t give the agency sufficient lead time to complete work – Hold your agency to ridiculously high standards. Make them work late into the night to meet impractical deadlines. Yell at them when they miss the deadlines or turn in less than stellar work. All of the best people at the agency will be clamoring to work on your account when they hear about the “tough love” approach you take.
  4. Don’t take the ideas that your agency brings to you seriously – When the agency brings you ideas for new campaigns, or new target audiences, tell them that their job is to speak only when spoken to and use the opportunity to hammer them on that report you have been wanting. Never let them get comfortable that the relationship is on a solid footing, or they will get lazy.

While most clients would protest that the above examples are not likely, having worked on the client side and the agency side for many years, I have seen examples of every one of the above behaviors from both clients and agencies.

Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you have not been guilty of at least one of the above. If you want your relationship to move to the level of business partner, a good place to start is by examining your own actions.


Dave McAnally said...
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Anonymous said...

I defiantly agree with this post 100%. SEM agencies have become very irritating and always trying to up sell clients unnecessary services that they may very well do themselves.

And the funny thing is that 80% of the agencies do not show any ROI to their clients. They just say we follow best practices.

The solution is to hire an in-house SEM employee that you can monitor everyday who also know your business better than the agency. Why? Because if very cost effective and controllable. I hope that companies will realize this one day.

Great post. Keep them coming on this subject.

Tom Kuthy said...

To Anonymous:

I believe you missed the point of my post. I was trying to point out, in a humorous way, that a client's action may inadvertently lead to poor outcomes form their search agency.

The goal of the client agency relationship is to move from the level of "vendor" to "true business partner" where both parties benefit. The actions I pointed out above lead in the opposite direction.

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