How Banks Become Better Marketing Agency Clients

By Hillary Kelbick

It’s no secret that agencies develop special relationships with their long-time clients. Both are invested in driving good results, and they strive to work together to form a successful partnership.

By becoming a better client and working closely with your agency, your bank can conquer any communication challenge. Here are some smart ideas and constructive habits you can adopt to strengthen your bank’s relationship with your marketing agency, from the start of a project to the final wrap-up and analysis.

Planning

Share your specific business and marketing objectives. Then rely on your partner’s experience and perspective to offer smart strategies and tactics that will help accomplish your goals.

Instead of spending a lot of time formulating the details of a project before reaching out to your agency or specialized external resource, bring in the agency early to help with detailed planning and attention to detail.

Management

Assign an overall point person who will oversee the agency partnership. Based on the size and complexity of the assignment, consider putting team members on point to lead different lines of business, acting as the day-to-day contacts within your organization and ensuring good project management on your end. Then, work with your agency to establish regular status meetings, particularly on large-scale projects. Keeping everyone informed is essential to a well-run effort.

Be as communicative as possible, on topics large and small. Even the little things help: For example, a quick email reply to say that you have received materials sent for review, especially if the file size is large, can be important in terms of keeping the wheels of the project moving.

Use video conferencing options to connect with your agency partners, especially as in-person meetings are not practical these days. Video calls are superior to voice calls when it comes to establishing and maintaining the important connections necessary for a smooth client-agency relationship.

Budgeting

Be open with your agency on any budget parameters or limitations on a project. This provides the financial framework needed to provide you with the right range of communications options.

Be as forthright as you can, and in return, you’ll get a menu of attractive alternatives for discussion within your budget parameters.

Scheduling

Establish or confirm a review process among your internal stakeholders with turnaround times you can realistically commit to, and share it with your agency. That way, your partner can build timelines that are detailed and workable.

Consider how many rounds of review you need to allow. Don’t just skip to the final delivery date and give a rubber-stamp approval at the outset. Instead, view the timeline as a set of mutual obligations for everyone’s benefit. Once a revised schedule is approved, then both the agency and client must commit to it. That will make the job run more smoothly and ensure critical dates are met.

Once the project is underway, if you foresee difficulties meeting the review turnaround, be honest and realistic with your agency to allow for adjustments as needed. Especially if the communication has a legally required distribution date, internal dates may change, but the final date can’t slip.

Input

Be as specific as possible with regard to details you want to include (and not include) in a given assignment. Provide your latest brand and content standards at the outset of a project, and let your agency know if there is any creative leeway, given the intended purpose and audiences of your communications.

Share your recent creative efforts as appropriate. It’s okay to share what you love, as well as what you are not as enamored with. Providing your honest opinion on what you like and dislike about past work helps to focus creative thinking on future projects.

Bring your relevant internal stakeholders to agency meetings. Exposing the agency to those who know the details about products and services–and compliance guidelines too—will benefit everyone. It may even save you time and effort, and the added perspectives are helpful.

Feedback

Early rounds of copy are most often delivered as manuscripts (i.e. Word documents). It’s critical that you provide consolidated feedback on a single manuscript, reflecting internal comments from all stakeholders.

Try to resolve all conflicting opinions or open questions posed by reviewers before sharing with the agency. Your partner will be able to more easily move the project ahead when presented with clear direction for editing and updating materials.

Some reviewers (particularly your senior managers) may not want to review copy until it’s in layout, but making changes at that stage is typically more time-consuming and expensive than making changes in manuscript. Appeal to their commitment to the bottom line, and try to have as many people review in manuscript as possible.

Analysis

Meaningful results on how the assignments have been executed are invaluable to your agency in terms of improving how it can be an even better partner next time. If you have results, please share them.

An end-of-project debriefing is also useful to identify ways to improve the agency-client partnership for the next time.

Finally, view every assignment as a learning experience. Look for repeatable processes that can be leveraged when working together on future projects.

Remember, whether you’re running a project with your agency of record or partnering with a specialty firm, every time your two organizations work together is an opportunity to help each other get better. Ultimately, that will result in a better end product, and one that improves your ability to achieve your marketing and communication objectives.

Hillary Kelbick is president of MKP communications inc., a New York based agency specializing in financial services marketing and merger communications. Email: hillary@mkpteam.com.

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