Building client relationships and working with other agencies can be challenging, but it is vital for your agency’s long-term success. In fact, one of the agency/client trends that is toughest for most small to mid-sized agencies is learning how to and accepting the idea that you’re going to have to work with other agencies.  The whole agency of record model is crumbling and more and more clients are telling the marketplace that they prefer to work with multiple agencies.

When AMI partnered with Audience Audit last fall to do some primary research with CMO types, one of the things that popped off the page was how prevalent this attitude is.  Many of our respondents worked with 3+ agencies and thought they were better off for doing so.

The reasons they opted for multiple agencies varied but the predominant message was — “no one agency can be excellent at everything. We would prefer to buy subject matter expertise across agencies.”

The other thing the respondents told us is that they hate it when agencies bicker and try to throw each other under the bus.  They end up distrusting and often firing the bigger whiner among the agencies.  (You can download the research report here)

Who comes out on top?  The agency who finds a way to work well with the others.  The agency who busts a hump to coordinate their efforts and actually recognizes what the other agencies are good at and takes full advantage of those talents.

Why?  Because then you are actually building client relationships. You are doing what’s best for the client, rather than worrying about the lost billable hours.  Because then you are acknowledging other agencies has something to contribute.  Because then you are actually being your client’s advocate, rather than looking out only for your own interests.

I get it — sometimes they hire buffoons that make your life miserable.  And if the other agency is doing their best to make you look bad — it’s tempting to swing back.  But trust me, you only look as bad as they do.

I also understand when you’re an independently owned agency of a couple hundred people or less, it’s  touchy subject. But the truth is, it is darned near impossible to have deep expertise in everything aspect of marketing today — even for the big box agencies, let alone a shop of 27 people.

  • Whether you like it or not — here’s why you need to learn to work with other agencies:
  • The client is demanding it and if you’re the pouter, you’re going to be the one who gets fired
  • You actually aren’t brilliant at every aspect of marketing
  • You can learn from the other agencies and get better in areas where you don’t have a depth of expertise
  • If you play nice, you can earn your client’s respect and more of their budget
  • The other agencies may end up being referral sources or bring you in to partner on other projects.  Don’t laugh, I see it happen all the time
  • This trend isn’t going away

Once again, the other element in building client relationships is that you need to be mindful of is that clients want agencies with specific areas of expertise.  It’s getting tougher and tougher to be a generalist and sell the idea that you can be a one stop shop.  Again, especially if you’re 54 people.

It’s time to get serious about knowing what you’re really spectacular at — and selling that.  The agencies that are really rocking it are self-identifying their specialties and learning how to play nice in the sandbox with other agencies.

How are you doing on those two items?