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Agrimarketing : May 2009
34 Marketers Report:32 Feature Story 5/13/09 11:29 AM Page 34 AGENCY UPDATE MARKETERSREPORTONWHATTHEY EXPECTFROMTHEIRAGENCIES Editor’s note:We invited prominent agri-marketers to provide their insight into their organizations’ expectations of theirmarketing communications agencies and theirmeasurers of success. AGROTAIN INTERNATIONAL St. Louis,MO by JeffWhetstine Vice President, GlobalMarketing After a couple of decades on both sides of the desk, here are some of the things I have learned about client/agency relationships and whatmakes themsuccessful: Chemistry is important. You are going to be spending lots of time together, working on projects under stressful conditions. You had better genuinely like the people youworkwith. Be realistic.No client budget is Whetstine without limit.No agency has talent and experience in every sector or medium.When trying tomake a good match, the clientmust set realistic expectations of thework desired and hire an agencywith appropriate talent. It is best to definewhat ismost important before you start searching for your agency partner(s) rather than becoming enamoredwith a group simply based on a fabulous pitch. Jack of all trades, andmaster of some. I have yet to find a single agency that canwork across every discipline at high levels. But chances are you do not need all the disciplines. Choosewisely an agency that can handle the bulk of thework you will do, and get a specialistwhen needed. Someone has to care.As an agency, dedicate someone, even if it is the newaccount coordinator, to care for the client.As a client, expect 34 Agri Marketing s May 2009 to trulymanage the relationship, investing time inmeetings and training, especially in the first year together, aswell as setting strategic direction. Direction please. If you as a client do not direct thework, youmay not getwhat youwant fromyour agency. Put it inwriting. If you dictate direction over the phone, have the agency write it down and send it for review. Themajor disasters inmy experience in client/agency relationships have come fromnot nailing down the strategy fromthe beginning, so expectationswere not aligned. Trial and error. Clients should expect to pay to try newthings, realizing somewill not succeed.Agencies should have thewisdomnot to have newthings end in error too often. Management commitmentworks bothways. For clients, you have to be willing to invest in the relationship, educating the agency on the brand and category idiosyncrasies. For agencies, you have to keep a teamconsistently staffed to produce the bestwork and not frustrate the client by constantly having to retrain your team. The challenge ismaking the rela- tionshipwork over the long run. It is worth the effort. BASF Research Triangle Park, NC by PatMorrow CommunicationsManager The agency-client relationship involves a dual responsibility. Just like any relationship it requires dedication, nurturing, and honesty in order to growand produce healthy outcomes. It also requires a strong desire formutual success. When Iwas an agency person, one ofmy clients toldme that the agency is successfulwhen the client is successful. The basics of any relationship apply to the client-agency interaction. This does notmean tominimize the necessary agency skills of tal- ented, hard working people with business and creative expertise.While paying attention to all the credentials on paper, it is unfortunately that the basics are often neglected, especially in an environmentwhere the pace ofwork is fast and furious and the stakes are high. The basics of any relationship Morrow apply to the client-agency interaction, and the recipe for success is founded in a fewkey basics: Mutual respect: Treat others they way youwant to be treated. This basic tenet is required in any relationship. Clients and agencies should respect each other for their expertise and look for opportunities to capitalize on both for the best ideas and strategies. Open communication: Dialogue and frequent communication about the business or project at hand and about diverse issues and dimensions of the industrywill keep ideas fresh, lines of communication open, and lead to great ideas thanwill benefit themarketing communications programs. Honesty: Be able to openly provide feedback in a constructive environment. Transparency at every level is critical.Whether the news is good or bad, be open.Hiding ormisrepresenting any element destroys trust and could be costly to the business. Mutual Understanding:Agencies should be eager to learn the client’s people, products, industry, and business. Clients should learn a bit about the agency’s innerworkings. This learning is an ongoing process. Whenwe stop learning, the business stops growing. (more on page 36)
May 2009 Supplement