Agency culture – the 5 difference makers every client should demand

Exzellente Arbeit ist das eine, eine besondere Unternehmenskultur das andere: Unser Kollege Ray Valcich von CROSSMEDIA New York spricht über die wichtige Rolle von Kultur in Agenturen und warum dies den entscheidenden Unterschied für den Kunden ausmacht:

Today more than ever, business outcomes that fuel bottom lines take the cake and for good reason. An agency’s outstanding culture, stellar training program and above-industry-average retention rate have zero chance of being mentioned on a quarterly earnings call. “The Street” simply does not give a crap, yet every RFP asks about it.

But look a little closer and consider Lindsey Rittenhouse’s Jan. 16 report. Business relationships make the world go round and it’s not just about the team dinner and drinks (although those are the fun bits). It’s the people in the trenches that clients grow to trust over time, that ultimately manifest into more efficient, effective and—dare I say—pleasant ways of working.

The time spent by agency personnel learning and living a client’s business inside and out is a tremendous investment that takes commitment and valuable time and effort on both sides. If these relationships are everything, what good is an agency that can’t keep half of the equation from jumping ship to the next shop?

It’s easy for an agency to talk about its culture and why it’s such an amazing place to work. Actually doing it and proving it is not. Below are five unfakeable agency attributes clients should care and ask about in a review:

Longstanding leadership
There’s something to be said for a leadership team with a vision that’s been at the wheel for a decent length of time. It shows commitment to an approach or philosophy and is obviously a great sign that they are doing something right. A thriving culture often starts at the top. Ask for proof the vision works.

This is the easiest one. How long are people staying on average? But don’t just ask for the number. Ask for an explanation as to why the number is what it is and what the agency is doing to maintain it or fix it. Every agency— even the good ones—can have a bad run with talent. If it’s low, what is the plan to fix it and how will it benefit your team, and by default, your business.

Repeat customers
Clients who bring their agencies with them to the next gig is one of the best references you can get and a nightmare for incumbents. Ask if it’s ever happened and then go talk to those clients about it. Is it because of a single rock star account lead or because the agency has a deep bench with consistent skillsets and values that drive business outcomes?

Real live humans
Access to tech and tools, including AI, have moved up the RFP and pitch scorecard. The future might feel a little scary but it’s also very bright, and an agency’s ability to provide access to and optimize cutting-edge technology are table stakes in 2024. When your hair is blown back by a demo, don’t forget that there’s a team of humans you’ll need to communicate with to get the most from your investment. The shiniest tech is only as good as the people surrounding it—at least until “The Terminator” movies become reality.

The team
Ensure that the agency team you’re engaging with (and maybe falling in love with) in the review process is going to be your actual day-to-day team. Even the best, most vibrant agencies have a B team. Ask the uncomfortable questions at the beginning and get commitments before moving forward. Even better, ask the agency to write it into the MSA.

Clients shouldn’t underestimate agencies that are known for putting a concerted effort toward attracting, retaining and growing the best talent out there. Certainly, great work will always be an outsized part of the equation, but a thriving culture is the difference maker you’re looking for.

Zu Ad Age Online