Seven ways to improve agency efficiency

Nothing loses an agency client faster than inefficient process and the frustration it causes. Not even Cannes-winning work can keep a client if the agency can’t manage the relationship properly. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the impact of industry consolidation and how it has affected the ability of the acquired agency and its holding company siblings to work smoothly and efficiently.

This week I’m sharing seven tips you can put to use right now to ensure your agency is serving your clients swiftly, effectively and efficiently – like the proverbial well-oiled machine.

Don’t rely on email. No doubt you’ve heard this before. For a method of communication so deeply ingrained in all aspects of our lives (which, of course, is why everyone loves to use it), it’s one of the most inefficient. Sadly, though, it’s still used by most organizations as the primary method for doing and managing, well, everything, despite the evolution of project management software. Do your agency a favor: ban email as a method of project management. You’ll thank me later.

Leave egos at the door. While it’s important to know the pecking order in the development of the campaign, those involved should never let that pecking order dictate who can suggest a new idea or a change to an existing idea. There is absolutely nothing wrong with adopting the suggestion of an intern who joined the agency two days ago if that idea will better the project. And there is no reason for the CD with two decades of experience to be offended by the adoption of that suggestion. A good idea can come from anywhere and that belief should be fostered and ingrained in the DNA of the agency.

Choose your partners wisely. While you may not always be able to choose which holding company sister agency you work with, you likely have a bit of control over vendors. Don’t toss business to your friend’s production company. Take a good, hard look at how that company operates, its processes and what its partners have said about it (good or bad). If the vendor doesn’t meet your needs, choose another company and tell your friend you look forward to remaining friends.

Formalize documentation. Here’s another no-brainer, but this one becomes supremely important, especially when holding company acquisitions bring together disparate agencies with different processes and procedures. Even before the acquisition is publicly announced, affected entities should get to work immediately on formalizing and casting in stone (with proper input from proper parties, of course) processes and procedures that will be adopted agency-wide. Not everyone will love this because, as we all know, some people hate change. But hatred of change is no where near as bad as an agency operating with conflicting policies and procedures.

Determine authority and set expectations. At the outset of every client engagement, project, campaign or simple Sunday insert (yes, we still do those), determine which sister agency (or internal department or client side department) has lead authority. Who will take point? Who will call the shots? There’s nothing worse than a job without clearly defined roles and responsibilities. It’s worth agonizing over these roles and responsibilities at the outset rather than experience an entirely different sort of agony later in the process when the finger-pointing and ass-covering begin to wreak havoc.

Cut down on meetings and conference calls. Much like email, meetings and conference calls have been ingrained in our collective psyche as effective methods of communication and process control when, in fact, they are often the least productive and most ineffective means of getting anything at all accomplished. There is far too much fragmentation in today’s work process (with multiple vendors, agencies, partners, devision, etc.) for a meeting to keep everyone on the same page. Meetings also tend to skew information and insight. Without regard to who may have the best commentary to offer, meetings favor the pompous loudmouth over the meek (but, perhaps, deeply insightful).

Use process management tools. Yes, this a blog published by a collaboration platform company, so it goes without saying we’d like to humbly suggest you consider these sorts of solutions. They take email out of the equation. They level meeting mania mayhem. They instill the adoption of agency-wide process and procedure. They make it dead simple for everyone to have access to the same information at the same time. They ensure proper communication among teams and team members. And they do it all without asking much from the user.

Steve Hall
Post by Steve Hall

Steve Hall is a marketing professional, publisher, writer, community manager, photographer and all-around lover of advertising. Steve has held management positions in media and account service at Leo Burnett, Starcom/Mediavest and others, working on such accounts as Reebok, Marriott, Monster.com and Marshmallow Fluff.

One Response to Seven ways to improve agency efficiency

  1. Great advice Steve! Everyone has to fight fires, but clients really want agencies to spend more time being creative – developing Business Building Ideas, new strategies, new ideas.

    I’ve done my share of operational consulting in the agency world, and it always shocks me when I study how a so-called “creative agency” spends its time. When broken out by function, often less than 20% of staff time is creative. If you further divide the chunks of time into what we call Value-Added and Non-Value-Added, the problem is even worse –often half of the creative time is spent on Non-Value-Added time (revisions, redos, admin, non-billable meetings, and more). Most agency processes add up to over 100 steps, with 50% wasted effort, and unaccounted lost revenue. When you add it all up, most creative shops spend around 10% of their time on actually being creative. The agency is spending way too much time fighting fires and reacting to past issues.

    So to your list I would add look at your processes, roles and responsibilities, and find a way to streamline as much as possible. Focus your team’s energies on the right things! Not fighting fires!

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