April 4, 2023Comments are off for this post.

‘It’s Not Me, It’s You:’ 6 Signs You Need a New Agency

When the agency-client relationship is like forcing a square peg into a round hole

Just like any relationship, the agency relationship takes time and work to be successful. It requires open and honest communication, accountability and true partnership on both the client side and agency side.

That said, there are times when the agency-client relationship is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole—it simply isn’t the right fit.

The red flags

Here are six signs it could be time to move on from your current agency partnership:

  1. Core expertise misalignment: If your agency isn’t an expert at the service(s) you need them to perform, then the relationship is not set up for success. It is hindering your brand’s true growth potential.
  2. Your own business growth: Your business needs have evolved beyond your initial scope, but your agency cannot continue to lead growth or accommodate your growing needs operationally or strategically.
  3. Lack of strategy: You have given your agency the budget and the freedom to bring strategic ideas to the table and directly requested this but, time and time again, true strategy is replaced with table stakes and last quarter ideas.
  4. Team turnover and staffing holes: Change happens, but regular team turnover without proper onboarding and offboarding is a major red flag. If you have communicated this to your agency with no improvements made, it may be time to move on.
  5. Inability to measure impact: Marketing’s creditability hangs on measurable results. If your agency is not helping you measure the impact of your marketing dollars and helping you effectively tell that story to your managers, executives and board, it may be time to let them go.
  6. Trust is broken: If they have repeatedly broken your trust by missing important deadlines previously agreed upon (without communicating beforehand), they are not setting realistic expectations, not taking accountability and not leading with integrity. If you have addressed this directly with them with no change, it might be time for a harder conversation. Trust is the foundation of all relationships.

Before running to a new agency, consider this

Prior to making the switch, smart clients are also conducting an internal examination to determine how they are contributing to the dysfunction in the agency relationship.

If you are running into the same challenges across multiple agency partners, running to find a new one may not actually solve the underlying problems. Make sure your own team and internal processes are setting everyone up for success and that you are learning from past shortcomings.

 

Here are a few questions clients should consider before changing agencies:

  • Are you effectively communicating the brief for your engagement, including expectations, timelines, scope, goals, KPIs and budgets?
  • Are you providing the agency with the materials, tools and platforms needed for them to be successful and to perform their work in a timely manner?
  • Are you providing constructive feedback when expectations, deliverables and timelines are not met?

Getting the partnership right matters more than ever

Especially on the eve of a looming recession, where purse strings are tightening for so many organizations, having the right partners in place to help you increase the effectiveness of your marketing dollars matters more than ever. Marketers are under an extreme amount of pressure to do more with less and to spend smarter.

Make sure you have the right agencies in place that are:

  • experts at the services you’ve hired them to perform.
  • nimble, agile and able to grow with your organization as you evolve.
  • your true strategic partner, leading growth even in uncertain times.
  • the right organizational fit based on your global operating needs, building the right team around you.
  • helping you prove the effectiveness of your investment and treating your marketing dollars like they are their own.
  • people you trust, like working with and know that they are as accountable to the growth of your business as you are.

Some relationships just aren’t the right fit, while others can grow into something quite prosperous with a few small (but significant) shifts. Only you can truly assess if your current relationship cannot be salvaged and if it’s time to move on.

 

Either way, it’s about identifying the right partner for your specific organization and building the trust required to solve challenges together. There will be successes and failures, but the responsibility is on both sides for creating a long-lasting partnership.

https://www.adweek.com/agencies/its-not-me-its-you-6-signs-you-need-a-new-agency/

March 29, 2023Comments are off for this post.

Why brands shouldn’t just hire an agency you’ve worked with before

We know… We know… This may be an unpopular opinion, but hear us out. Both brands and agencies should be focused on making sure the relationship is the right fit for your current organization. The cost of getting this relationship wrong is too significant for both brands and agencies. Doing a thorough vetting process allows for the insights needed to make this big decision.

Maybe an old agency is actually the right fit, or maybe you will be surprised by what else is possible. There’s only one way to know for sure.

Why brands should take the time to make sure you have the right partnerships in place:

Most marketers have worked with previous agencies at some point in their career and may have even worked at agencies themselves. It is really easy to go back to who and what you know. Of course, there are circumstances when repeat business relationships work. Often times, this is not the case.

Here is why:

  1. Your business needs at your new company are likely different than the business needs of your previous company. Even if you’re in a similar industry or are going after a similar audience, your company and your team may have different strategic, global support, operating, services and expertise needs
  2. The agency team will likely not be the same team. So much about what makes a successful agency/client relationship is about the actual people on your team. You may not get to work with the same team, as they may not have the bandwidth or may no longer be at that specific agency
  3. Budget misalignment. Your account might not be the right fit for the agency from a budget perspective. If you’re too big or too small for the agency, it can create an imbalanced relationship from the start

The truth is, running a thorough RFP takes time and energy, but it is worth it. As marketers, you have so much on your plate to begin with – wearing multiple hats across your organization, many goals and internal stakeholders, and so much that needs to be done. You’re under more pressure than ever to show the effectiveness of your marketing investments and how your programs impact business growth. Your current role may depend on this.

You need to be able to rely on your agency to be your true partner.

Cutting corners in the RFP process will likely result in having to run it again (and again), wasting much more of your valuable time and much more of your company’s valuable money. Not to mention, onboarding a new agency is no easy feat.

Aligning your business needs with an agency that truly excels in the services you require is the

foundation for establishing a true partnership. From there, trust and chemistry can be built. Allow yourself the opportunity to properly assess the agency landscape to find their right partner for your current business. You may be pleasantly surprised and learn a great deal of valuable information. The time spent during the RFP process is worth the headaches it will save you in the long run.

Take the time to get this big decision right. You’ll be glad you did.

To our agency friends:

We understand that agencies organically grow your business through repeat customers and referrals. We are not intending to take away from this. That said, if the agency is also focused on making sure the client is the right fit for your organization, you should be cautious about soiling a long-term relationship for a short-term win.

We also understand that the RFP process is a significant time investment for agencies. This is why agencies should be declining to participate in an RFP that doesn’t fit the core expertise of your agency. You should be very picky about the type of business you are choosing to pursue and only go after business that fundamentally matches the expertise of your team and your global operating model.

You should ask yourselves these questions before deciding to participate:

  • Is the scope the right match for the services you provide?
  • Is the budget appropriate for your agency?
  • Do you have the bandwidth to properly service this scope/account?
  • Is this the right type of client for your agency?

If the answer is no to any of the above, consider walking away from the business.

If the answer is yes to the above, the RFP process is most thorough way for both the client and the agency to truly assess if this is the right relationship. In this spirit, agencies should (dare we say) welcome the RFP process. This way, you can also determine if the client needs and temperament match your agency.

While in theory it is great to win business, winning business that isn’t a fit for your agency causes a great deal of pain, low morale, burnt out teams and turnover. An agency’s people are your greatest resource. You shouldn’t risk losing your team for the wrong type of client.

Protect your people the integrity of your agency. This will bring the right types of brands and partnerships into your business.

Do you agree yet?

Before entering into any long term committed relationship (especially one that involves a great deal of time, money and energy), both brands and agencies should make sure that this is the right fit for all parties. Even if prior relationships exist, making sure that this scope (at this current moment) is the right fit is worth it. The RFP process is a fair way to level the playing field so that both sides can truly assess if this is currently the right partnership.

The focus for all relationships should be about the fit, rather than the win.

March 6, 2023Comments are off for this post.

From Agency Partnerships to Operational Excellence: Why Tenx4 is evolving to help organizations where we’re needed most

 

For the past several years, Tenx4 has been helping brands identify the right strategic agency partners. Our focus has always been about the fit, rather than the win. We’ve helped both brands and agencies ensure that the partnership is right for both sides and that there is alignment across fundamental partnership requirements, budget and scope, services, team expertise and chemistry. 

Through our work, we began to see that having the right agency partnerships in place can only get you so far if your organization does not have the right internal operating processes and the right tools to truly support your team. 

Tenx4’s business is built on a core idea: How can we be uniquely useful to the industry? In the spirit of helping people do business better, we’ve identified another way we can be helpful. 

Especially now, with such uncertain economic times, marketers and organizations are under more pressure than ever to prove the effectiveness of investments. Organizations are running lean and must do more with less, while also continuing to meet growth goals. You need to know that you have the right partners, processes, technologies and tools in place to be successful. Your job may depend on this. 

So many of our friends, clients and colleagues are facing this same challenge. This is why we decided to bring this natural extension of Tenx4’s services to the market. 

We are excited to announce that we have expanded our services to help organizations “right-size” your existing tech stack and processes in order to drive better efficiency. 

We’ll help you ensure that your tech stack is the right fit for your organization by eliminating shelfware or implementing new tools. We can also support developing new processes or simply improving on what currently exists. Wherever there are gaps or duplications, we can find solutions with the ultimate goal of helping you find the right fit for your organization to improve efficiencies.

A tool and process is only as good as how it's being used. If you’re wondering if you are optimizing efficiently in today’s market, we’re here to help.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your org or team have processes that are highly manual and labor intensive?
  • Are you lacking a formalized or repeatable process? 
  • Do you have too many underutilized tools or multiple overlapping tools?

Developing standardized ways of working will increase speed without downgrading quality, and can even help your agency partnerships be more effective as well. Clearing out shelfware and ensuring you are leveraging the best tools for your org will help the bottom line.

How we help:

  • Discovery: Conduct a deep-dive discovery of existing tools and processes to identify inefficiencies, gaps or duplications 
  • Vetting: Evaluate potential tools based on organizational needs and business requirements
  • Recommendation: Suggest tools and processes to eliminate or implement 
  • Implementation: Partner with key stakeholders to build out the tool and/or process
  • Development: Architect the discipline and rigor around best practices for broad adoption
  • Enablement: Train teams to best utilize tools for operational excellence  

Through our services-based approach, we partner with organizations to help you achieve operational efficiency, and ultimately, to drive business growth.

An agency is not a silver bullet for internal operational deficiencies. Having the right agency partnerships in place can only get you so far if you are not operating efficiently.  Improving organizational processes and adoption of tools, in addition to making sure the right partners are in place, will help everyone do business better.



August 30, 2022Comments are off for this post.

How Successful CMOs are Redefining Agency Partnerships

Many marketing organizations face the same challenges: brands are working with multiple agencies with no cohesion, centralized global strategy or single source of truth. This leads to significant budget waste, core audience confusion, lack of shared learnings and ultimately hindering a brand’s true growth potential.

When required agency services and operating models are misaligned with core needs, organizations end up paying additional and unnecessary agency fees. Tenx4’s extensive database of agency pricing confirms the importance of finding the right agency partner based on fit. A recent survey of ours also found that many organizations feel that they are overpaying their agency, which could be due to the agency not being built to service an account like theirs. Therefore, properly evaluating an agency partner is worth the extra time to save your organization significant marketing dollars that otherwise would have been wasted.

Identifying the right agency partner is a robust and time-consuming task with multiple moving parts and multiple stakeholders (often with conflicting goals). Successful CMO’s have applied the following six steps in making the agency evaluation process easier and more successful:

  1. Global Vision: It is imperative that the team understands the global vision and the organizational growth goals. This directive for shared accountability and shared goals comes from the CMO or most Senior Marketing Executive. Getting buy-in and creating excitement among the team will reduce friction and increase participation.
  2. Key Stakeholder Alignment: No agency can fix a siloed and fragmented internal system. To create a singular global strategic vision and a true global partnership, the first step is to shift the focus internally. This means that all regional leaders must align on key objectives for what the RFP is solving for and everyone on the team must be moving in the same direction. Successful CMO’s have created a tight scope and reasonable agency requirements.  
  3. Pre-Vetted Agency Shortlist: Agencies being invited to participate in a search for a new agency partner should also be pre-vetted. This means that each agency invited fundamentally meets the business requirements in global operations, services offered, budget requirements, client expertise, bandwidth, etc. If an agency is not built to service the exact needs, the relationship is not set up for success.
  4. Strong RFP Brief: An agency is only as good as the brief they receive. It is important that the brief reflect the business needs and key challenges. Going to market with an old RFP written for myopic goals will not help any organization find the right global partner. Asking the potential agency partners the right questions is key to understanding:
    • If they are experts in what the organization is trying to accomplish
    • If they have done this before or if this is the first time they will be working with a brand in this capacity
    • If they are the right strategic partner to help evolve and grow the brand
  5.  Aligned Contract Scope: There are many budget efficiencies to be had by aligning scope with agency services. While this is often a tedious process, many agency contracts include bloat, such as, additional agency services and team members not needed. CMO’s that support their teams to work through this process have seen significant savings in dollars over time.
  6. Reasonable Onboarding Timeline: Onboarding is not an overnight task. It takes work and time from both the agency and your team. Particularly when you are consolidating from multiple agencies to one global agency, onboarding should be conducted in phases with a clear roadmap for success. Make sure “Go-To Market” dates and full onboarding expectations are reasonable with measurable milestones.

Just like any relationship, the relationship with an agency takes work and time to build. Like Matt Heinz’s ‘Agency Management Best Practices: B2B CMO’s and Agency Heads Get Real’ article states, “It’s all about relationships and must be two-way… agencies need to be proactive to become trusted advisor and have a long-term outlook or why waste time?”.  It is about identifying the right partner who is the right fit for the organization and building the trust to required walk this path together. There will be successes and failures, but the responsibility is on both sides for creating a successful and long-lasting partnership.

January 12, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Top 5 2021 Agency Pitch Observations & Recommendations for 2022

At the start of 2022, after another full year of running RFPs and pitching new business remotely (in most cases), we wanted to share our five general observations of 2021 and our hopes for 2022.

  • Practice might make “too perfect”: Often during pitches, the potential client provides feedback, gives additional color to a challenge the agency addressed or asks a question and more often than not, agencies do not use the opportunity for a dialogue. We’ve observed most agencies thank the client for the info and move on to presenting content on slides. In 2022, we hope that agencies take the opportunity for authentic candor with their potential client and use those moments to build true chemistry. Our hope is that the agencies get out of the story they want to tell and get into the conversation with their (potential) client.
  • Talk about the (potential) client: For agencies that do not advance or win the pitch, the feedback we get from our clients is that they feel like the RFP response or pitch deck was generic and not actually about them. In 2022, we hope that agencies take the time to insert the client more into the thinking, keep the focus on the client and their actual challenge and take the time to personalize the presentation that lets the client know that the response is truly about and for them.
  • Try to avoid the “upfront ramble”: In pitches, we notice that most agencies spend more time than necessary on the few upfront “creds” slides. We know that nerves are often high in pitches and we know that the team is excited about the potential partnership, but time is often spent (dare we say wasted) on lengthy intros, client logo slides and services offered. In 2022, we hope agencies get a bit more concise in the “about you” language and shift the conversation to why they are excited to work with the client and how they can help them.
  • Be authentically you: While every agency has access to the same vendors, tools, technologies, data sets, etc. (in theory), what makes an agency special is the thinking and the team. We are surprised by how many agencies do not focus on their people when asked what makes them special. In 2022, we hope to see more agencies highlight their team and focus on their talent. In this spirit, we also encourage them to be themselves in pitches and bring their own personality and be conversational.
  • Be thoughtful and thorough: We completely understand that lots of information is requested during the RFP process. Many times, agencies are delinquent in providing materials or miss important details all together. In 2022, we hope that agencies take a step back from the laser focus in the RFP and make sure all questions have been answered in a thoughtful way and that all requested materials have been provided.

Life is different than it once was when we were in rooms together. This shift in how we connect does require a shift in how we approach connection (this might be more important than it ever was). We hope that our tips for 2022 continue to evoke change in our industry and work towards our mission to help create better agency/client relationships.

October 19, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Redefining the agency pitch to be about “the fit” rather than “the win”

The age-old agency RFP process has historically been about “the win”. Both the agency and the client have had to hold certain cards near their chest. RFP/RFI questions have been littered with hundreds of questions that don’t really uncover what an agency is good at. Pitch teams have consisted of senior leadership and well-intentioned (albeit sometimes empty) promises are made.

At Tenx4, we are redefining the process to be about the fit. What this means is that we have created a process that puts people at the center. With this more “humanistic” approach, we have found the key to developing long term and successful partnerships between our clients and their chosen agency partner.

This starts with understanding the actual business challenge and partnership needs of our clients. While most RFPs are time sensitive, taking the time to establish what the RFP is solving for is an imperative step that should be specific and thorough. This will inform the caliber of agencies vetted, the parameters of the brief and the next steps for determining the path forward that is best for a client’s unique situation.

Agencies invited to participate in the RFP should fit the fundamental RFP requirements. No more “square peg, round hole” relationships, wherein the agency “sort of” does what the client needs, but their expertise truly lies elsewhere. Relationships established on such an uneasy footing are rarely successful. As practitioners, we bring our industry knowledge to our deep vetting process and truly understand each agency’s unique strengths and weaknesses. We thoroughly vet and create a carefully curated list of agencies who excel in helping brands evolve through the identified challenge. We also encourage agencies to decline participation in RFPs if the brief doesn’t align with what they’re great at.

One of the most important aspects of assessing the right “fit” comes down to pitch meetings. These meetings are a time to build confidence and establish the building blocks for a successful partnership; therefore, having team alignment is crucial. Pitch meetings should be collaborative, have participation from both sides and include people who will actually be working together. Time and time again, we’ve heard our client’s question (and rightly question) if the “pitch team” will be working on their business. We’ve seen multiple agencies loose pitches because the CEO, VP or GM of the entire office will not be working on their business. We have encouraged our agency partners to bring key team members so that both sides can assess if this partnership is a good fit for all parties.

Through many experiences, we have seen that bringing transparency, honesty and clarity to the RFP process is resulting in better and more successful client/agency partnerships. In leveling the playing field, both the client and the potential agency can accurately assess if this will be the right partnership for both parties. Redefining the RFP process to be about the fit is not only changing the working lives of our clients and their chosen agency partner, but shaping the industry resulting in happy and healthier business relationships.

We’re grateful to be driving this change.

March 30, 2021Comments are off for this post.

How To Create an Impactful RFP Response

Effectively communicating your agency’s value proposition and how you can solve your potential client’s challenges matters more than ever. Having read through more RFP submissions than we can count, we thought some tips on how to best position your agency in written form would be helpful (and hopefully help you win more of the right business for your agency):

  • Thank you note: Less than half of agencies kick-off the RFP response with a personal note from the CEO, Founder or President thanking the potential client for including them in the RFP and setting the stage for the rest of the RFP response. It is a kind and impactful way to begin building a relationship. We hope to see all agencies adopt this classy approach.
  • Talk less about yourself: Of course, your potential client needs some important stats about your agency (where you operate, your services, your credentials as they relate to the client ask, etc.), but be very concise with this section. Consider an “agency stats executive summary” at the beginning of the response with additional general information about your agency at the end.
  • Answer questions directly: Clients know there are other amazing things about your agency and the services you offer, but make sure to specifically answer the questions asked in the RFP. Your potential client is reading through several submissions, make it really easy for them to compare “apples-to-apples” between you and your competitors. Be direct, concise and thoughtful in your answers.
  • Information overload: As mentioned, the client scoring team is reading through 5-15 RFP responses, be clear and concise with your answers. Be conscious of slide overload, giving too much information and providing deep details on questions/services not requested. Decks should not be 100 slides.
  • Get to the good stuff, quick: As early as possible in your response, shift the conversation to how your agency can solve your potential client’s challenges. We suggest not using the first 20 slides to talk about your agency, rather use those slides to show how your agency is uniquely qualified to leverage your experience and approach to evolve the client in the ways they need your help.
  • Be custom: While repurposing agency slides is great and there is not an expectation that every slide will be custom to a specific RFP, customize content on the slide with information that is specific to your potential client when possible. Use their name, add information about audiences they are targeting, include key topic themes that are important to them, do specific research that is relevant to them, and include their correct logo, etc. Help them to easily see how “your solution” can become “their solution”.

During this COVID-era where meetings are virtual and people are having “screen burnout,” it is more important to clearly and concisely convey your agency’s value to your potential client. When writing your response, ask yourself a couple of questions:

“Would I want to read this information?” and “Is this information relevant to what the client has asked?”.

Keep your audience in mind at every moment, paying special attention to what life is like right now for the person reading your response. Make reading your answers easy for them and a delight. Leave your potential client confident in your ability to  overcome their key challenges with a strong sense that you truly understand their unique needs and excited to get to know you better.

December 8, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Creating Chemistry Over Zoom: Pitching in a COVID-era

Creating chemistry was a tall enough order before migrating to online pitch meetings. In the absence of sitting around a table, popping up to whiteboard ideas, hearing the sounds and feeling the energy of the room, agencies have had to adapt their approach to pitching business virtually.

If being “pitched at” wasn’t painful enough before, being talked to for an hour over Zoom is worse. So, how do agencies create chemistry, create lean-in from clients and create trust via a Zoom pitch? We’ll tell you, it is tough, but it can be done.

Here’s how you can create pitch chemistry, virtually:
Icebreaker: Do something different to show your team’s personality. Our personal favorite is team “fun facts”. Think less about the formal introductions and more about how you can get your potential client to connect with who you are as people. Clients don’t pick an agency because of your agency name or how long you’ve been in business or where you opened your first shop or how many people you have; they pick an agency because of your people. Focus on what matters and we recommend keeping intros to under 5 minutes.
Make the pitch interactive: Without sharing too many winning secrets, walking people through a slide deck with narration is not interactive. Real-time ideation and game playing is interactive. You should not be afraid to be creative. Today, virtual meeting applications come equipped with polling options, interesting background suggestions etc. Play around with some of these features to animate your next meeting.
• Pause regularly to ask for feedback: This allows for natural banter and creates a conversation. Conversation leads to chemistry.
Time clock management is key: With virtual meetings, you can’t lag around after your pitch for a quick chat or continue the conversation while you’re walked to an elevator; when the meeting is over, it’s over. Don’t waste valuable time telling the client information they are already aware of about your company. Yes, it is fine to set the stage, but they don’t need you to read them their pitch brief or spend time talking about yourself. Dive into objectives and focus on how you can help the client solve their challenge.
Gather relevant background: Do your research about who you’re pitching and ask them about a shared detail (you both happened to go to the same college, you noticed they speak a language you do, they worked for your childhood bestie, something). These moments matter.
Don’t talk over the client: Talking over your potential client is not one of the establishing building blocks for creating chemistry or successful long-term relationships. When you hear the client you’re trying to win start to talk or if you see that their body language show that they want to say something (yes, you can tell even on Zoom), listen to them.

Just like when we all used to meet in person, the agency who wins does the best job of creating professional chemistry; they get the client to lean-in and buy-in at every step of the way. The same is true during a virtual meeting.

Smart brands aren’t picking the cheapest agency or the agency who answered the 128 excel question questionnaire best. They are picking agencies they trust. Trust is the baseline for building a successful relationship. These micro-engagements help to establish that trust and build chemistry.

Building chemistry virtually isn’t easy, but it can be done. We hope these tips are helpful the next time you are virtually pitching.