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Mission Control / Insights

Our Take: What Your Agency Should Be Telling You

The key to getting real information about your marketing program (and honest answers) is to ask, ‘Why?’ C/A’s Chief Client Officer Paul Peterson explains … well, why.

Photo of Paul Peterson, Casual Astronaut's Chief Client Officer.

Brands depend on their agencies for valuable insight and advice. Where do you think agencies hold back?

Much like any personal relationship, establishing a foundation of open, honest communication is crucial to a successful agency-client relationship. This sometimes means delivering difficult news about campaign performance or pushing back on a client’s request to make the logo bigger. And sometimes that advice can contradict a client’s perspective or push them out of their comfort zone. But that’s where the value of the agency-client relationship can often be found: challenging an existing way of thinking. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking, “Why?”

It’s up to the agency to help establish (and manage) expectations and to work with the client to define how that will be measured.

What questions should a client be asking its agency?

The most telling question a client can ask its agency is this: At the end of this campaign or after X project has been delivered, how will you know it’s been successful? Sometimes, it’s easy to articulate and quantify, like increasing site traffic by 10 percent. But for others, it may not be as concrete. Saying, “Help us think differently about this problem” or “Help our customers see us as a valuable resource,” can be just as important. It’s up to the agency to help establish (and manage) expectations and to work with the client to define how that will be measured.

Thanks to testing and analytics, doesn’t the truth always comes out?

No doubt, measurement and data are critical to informing optimizations and our recommendations. But analytic upticks aren’t everything. A good agency understands (and ask questions about) what’s important to its day-to-day client contact, what’s important to that person’s boss, what’s important to the future of their business. While metrics can certainly help inform direction and determine ROI, that’s not always what makes a project successful to the client. It’s important for an agency to be mindful to those other factors.

How can marketers make sure they’re getting honest answers — and not what the agency thinks they want to hear?

While an agency should be responsible for setting the right tone with client interactions — demonstrating transparency, preparedness and an understanding of business goals — it’s not a passive relationship. Clients should push an agency to communicate about their approach, expectations and anticipated outcomes. Again, “Why?” can be a powerful discussion starter.

What is the biggest disservice an agency does to their clients?

Agencies (and clients) have to be willing to take calculated risks and test new approaches. Sure, there are tried and true things that we know work, but encouraging clients to think differently and try something new … that’s the fun part. That said, agencies have to know when to pull back and not die on the hill for their own idea — and conversely admit when something didn’t work and shift direction as quickly as possible.

Paul Peterson
Paul Peterson Chief Client Officer

Paul oversees client service at Casual Astronaut, working with our account management team to shape content and digital marketing strategies for clients. His nearly 20-year career in marketing and public relations ranges from healthcare to hospitality, consumer products to government relations, high-tech communications to entertainment. Paul’s worked with brands such as Nike, Disney, Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinic to build measurable, audience-engagement strategies.

A father to two boys, Paul usually spends his weekends at flag football games, chess tournaments, bowling leagues and coaching soccer (all of which may happen in the same Saturday). And when snow starts to fall in the mountains, he looks for any excuse to hit the slopes.

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