5 tips for agencies from client-side marketers

For our latest feature – War & Peace: The agency-client relationship – we asked both parties to share their gripes with each other (hopefully in a completely non-shit stirring way). It’s an interesting piece that provides the inside scoop for both sides.

But features are long and so 2016. 

So we've zhuzhed it up into a content canapé for the peckish and time-poor consumer. The result is five fail-safe tips for agencies from budget-holding, client-side marketers. 

1. Keep your digs humble 

“People don't like their politicians to be comfortable,” barks Malcolm Tucker in the BBC’s The Thick of It. “They don't like them having expenses. They don't like them being paid. They'd rather they lived in a fucking cave.” To an (admittedly lesser) extent, agencies should think like politicians. If you’re invoicing four grand per case study from your lavish Champs-Élysées HQ, clients will realise they’re on the wrong end of a bankrolling job.   

“I don’t want to pay for an agency's overhead structure,” says Stephen Yeo, marketing director at Panasonic. “I want good people, I want reasonable offices – all of our agencies are typically in industrial estates or in a reasonable part of the city, not in flash expensive offices."

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2. Clients pay for your ideas, make yours count

Contrary to popular stereotypes, clients want agencies to offer the bold ideas they’re too institutionalised to think up. So offering creatively bold solutions on how to convert insight into tangible results will, in turn, butter the potential client's parsnips. Clients pay for your ideas and butter.

Brian Macreadie, head of brand and campaign marketing at Berwin Leighton Paisner, says: “I would rather pay more for an idea that will turn to results, than pay less for an idea that is likely to achieve sod all. Our target audiences are just too busy to be persuaded by boring ideas. Every agency I’ve hired of late has done both of those things from the first contact.”

3. Be willing to collaborate 

‘Specialist or generalist’ is a non-predicament when the two are open to collaboration. That's why many client-side marketers are favouring a ‘portfolio approach’ – working with a few agencies as strategic partners, from all-rounder to niche specialist. (If, however, your agency is big enough to buy the niche one, just save the hassle and do that.)

Alex Naylor, director of marketing and communications at Barclaycard, says: “I find it attractive when agencies are willing to working in a networked way; ones that understand their own competencies and are then willing to partner with others that can bring further incremental value.”

4. Use your ability to deliver original insights

It’s one of the main reasons why clients outsource in the first place: to borrow an outsider’s ability to shed new light on their ostensibly familiar audience. So, for Brian at least, selecting an agency depends heavily on the value of the insights they bring to the table on the day of the pitch. 

He says: “I absolutely adore it when agencies are proactively kicking my door in to say ‘you should try this’ or ‘this idea has got your name written all over it’. That's gold to me.”

5. Be honest 

Many client-side marketers are wary of agency types, especially posh and pretty ones. Clients are aware when they’re being taken out for dinner (especially if you’re literally talking them out for dinner), so deploying Lord Sebastian Flyte to win the pitch only to replace him with Baldrick later down the line won’t go unnoticed.

Stephen says: “I want an agency with great people, I don’t want to hear pretentious accents, I want people who understand the B2B world, who know practical things about European data laws, how to address a letter to different countries, and what’s important to grow a channel."