The Agency Review Process: And The Winner Is...

As we wrap up 2015 and head toward 2016, I must admit I’m a little surprised at the lack of surprises resulting from the big agency reviews that took place this year.  

I haven’t done a final count, but it’s safe to say the lion’s share of the largest media accounts on the planet went into review over the last 12 months — and what happened was basically a game of musical chairs, with the same usual suspects getting picked.  In this kind of situation, who really wins?

Simple answer: You, the one who hired a new agency, could still be the winner.  It’s a fresh start and one that is totally dependent on you to be successful.  It’s not in the hands of the agency – it’s in your hands.  

It takes that first year of a relationship for a new agency team to get up to speed.  It’s also when everyone tries to put his or her best foot forward and make sure the relationship gets kicked off in the right fashion.  

Being successful means you need to approach things differently.  First off, I’m certain you were pitched a stellar team of A-players and the idea that they would hire for  your account, bringing on the right people to work your business.  

Make sure you get the chance to interview those support players. Sometimes agencies will hire people laid off from other agencies when those previous shops lose the business in an effort to retain some historical knowledge on an account.  If they were the folks you recommended and/or liked working with, then that can be a positive.  If you don’t know those folks and they were the day-to-day people behind the scenes, you could be retaining some of the challenges you saw in your previous relationship.  If you have the chance to review those people, you can maintain quality control on the team that will be servicing your account.

My second piece of advice for you is to be very open and honest and provide feedback often.  Allow the new team to make their mistakes in that first year, and quickly educate them on what your expectations will be. Making mistakes is OK, but making them repeatedly is not.  Learn from the mistakes and establish trust in your agency so they know they are able to take risks. If you beat them down every time they make a mistake, they will never think out of the box for fear of failing. If they know they can swing and miss, they will be willing to try.  Agency success comes from you empowering them, not belittling them.

My third piece of advice: Operate differently.  If your old agency was not doing things well, you should take responsibility for that – it was probably your fault.  Errors are a two-way street – you may not have managed them correctly and  recognized the warning signs when mistakes were bound to happen.  If you look for new ways to operate, you give yourself a different path to follow to achieve success.  

The fact is that someone else before you most likely fired your brand-new agency.  No agency is perfect, and everyone has been fired. If you, in your selection process, were not interested in taking a leap of faith and trying something radically different, then you’re going to be saddled with similar challenges as in the past.  

This is a chance for you to improve.  The only way to succeed in this kind of situation is to take responsibility for your mistakes, understand what you could have done differently, and try something new.  Then, just maybe, we won’t have another round of reviews in three to five years.

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