It’s not you, it’s us – avoiding the brand-agency transaction trap

It’s not you, it’s us

Avoiding the brand-agency transaction trap


We all make transactions every day; trading money for goods and services with increasing ease, thanks to smartphones and the rising popularity of e-commerce. But as same day delivery and frictionless UX become the norm, it’s important that we avoid seeing agencies and other service providers in a similarly transactional light.

We oversee countless agency-brand relationships, and one of the keys to success is the acknowledgement that it’s exactly that: a relationship.

While a purely transactional relationship will probably still see the agency meet the brief and deliver against basic KPIs, it’s only when agencies are seen and treated as a genuine extension of your business’ team that you can take your marketing to the next level by allowing them to go beyond their contractual obligations. This article does a great job of explaining why.

So how do you go about cultivating this kind of collaboration with your agency? What does it look like in practice? Here’s our take:

1. Share!

Magical things happen when you share data with your agencies. Consider an SEO agency, while they might not be judged directly on the revenue generated via organic search (it’s usually just about the rankings), what would happen if you shared CRM data with them? Perhaps a better understanding of your sales cycle and why some leads don’t progress to the opportunity stage could reveal that you’re setting wrong expectations on your landing pages.

2. Long-Term Focus

You need your agency to have a demonstrable focus on building a long term relationship, rather than just a monthly or quarterly focus on their specific KPIs and deliverables.

For instance, you should expect your agency to act as both partner and advisor, helping you navigate through difficult challenges where there may be no clear path forward. This guidance might see them reject short term profit (e.g. building you a new website) in favour or long term gain for both parties (e.g. introducing an iterative experimentation programme for addressing website issues and therefore avoiding unnecessary costs).

Similarly, when you have an agency who’s really in it for the long term, expect them to challenge your ideas or even recommend other agencies that they all think are better suited to some specific needs. This kind of honesty from your agency is a good sign that they see you as more than a transaction.

3. Trust

A good relationship is one where there’s trust between both parties. This is what allows for open and honest communication – critical for staying on the same page. 

As we all know from experience, building trust takes time and effort and this is no different in an agency-brand relationship. With this mind, make time to check in with your agency and ensure that as a client, you are providing them with everything they need to succeed. It goes both ways and this investment will pay dividends over the long-term.

 There’s a time and place for quick transactions, but at a time when communication has already been made difficult due to Covid, the agency environment isn’t it.

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