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If you have been in business for at least a few years, chances are you have worked with a marketing partner: with either a freelancer or a full-service agency.

Freelancers can be excellent resources for specific tasks, such as web design, SEO, ad design, or digital ads management. However, as your organization matures and budgets allow, the best value is going to come from working with a full-service advertising agency. Agencies allow several people with very different skills work together toward the same goal: bringing your brand to the next level.

Whether you’ve worked with an agency before or are considering doing so for the first time, it’s important to go into the relationship knowing what you can expect in terms of service quality. Many companies limit themselves – and the potential success of the agency-client relationship – by harboring misconceptions about what is normal in working with agencies.

Here are 5 things that you should seek from your ad agency partner relationship:

  1. Transparency of the investment: Many agency clients can feel hesitant about sharing their advertising budget, either because they don’t have a defined budget or because they think that the agency will take advantage of them for sharing it. However, quite the opposite is true. By sharing your budget up front, your agency will be able to tailor a plan that fits your budget. By the same token, your agency should also be transparent with you about its fee structure, specifically: breaking out where the money is going and how much is going agency’s own labor costs, ad network fees, or other hard costs. Clear and open communication about the money side of the relationship is very important for things to progress in a healthy way.
  2. The right to retain full ownership of your digital ecosystem: Most ad campaigns today have a significant digital component. This means setting up analytics platforms, ad serving systems, and other types of software accounts. Some agencies will set these up for you but retain ownership, only granting you revokable access rights. That’s not in your best interest. Rather, if they set these platforms up on your behalf, have them make you the owner. You will thank yourself in the event that you part ways from your agency one day.
  3. Regular performance reviews: Once your campaigns have launched and been up and running for a few weeks, you should start expecting performance updates from your agency. Such updates can take on many forms, such as: monthly reports, online dashboards, check-in phone calls, or impromptu updates when the agency notices that significant occurs. You deserve to stay in the loop.
  4. An internal advocate: The best agencies will assign you a customer success specialist whose job is to make sure your account is getting serviced as promised and that your needs are being met. Since there will typically be several agency people working on your account at once, it’s important that the agency assign one person to help you track progress and fill in any gaps in service or understanding.
  5. Data-driven decisions: You should expect that your agency is rigorously using data to make decisions about the optimization of your campaign. Data-driven decisions should come into play at every stage of your campaign, including planning, customer identifications, campaign setup, ongoing optimization and reporting. Many agencies today brag about “data this” or “AI that.” But be bold and ask deeper questions about how they are actually using data to make sure you are set up for success.

Be sure to check each of these items off the above list as you interview your next agency partner. Ask them to explain in detail how they fulfil each of these expectations for their clients. And don’t be satisfied with vague answers.

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