Picture this: 2019 planning is officially in your rearview mirror after an exhaustive annual planning session with your agency partners. Now, it’s time to reflect on how it went. Was it engaging? Insightful? Productive? Actionable? And most importantly—was it fun?
It’s a simple scene to envision—unless you didn’t include your strategic agency partners in annual planning in the first place. And you wouldn’t be alone. Some companies share details with their agencies on a need-to-know basis. Others simply don’t think planning is a good use of agency resources.
But ask yourself: If your agency is tasked with delivering unique insights and building programs that help you meet your goals, shouldn’t they be part of the conversation on how to get there?
I suggest that, long before you submit “Marketing Plan FINAL FINAL FINAL” to your CFO, loop your agency into the discussion. If they’re a valuable strategic partner, they’ll challenge you in some areas and provide unique ways to overcome obstacles in others. After all, they’ve been thinking about your business. A lot. And that typically translates to exciting, actionable ideas that align to your goals.
Here are some ways to integrate your agency into your planning process so you can build smarter strategies—and of equal importance—stronger relationships:
Plan to Plan
Having an outsider lead strategic conversations can uncover new ways of looking at old problems. So have your agency come up with the agenda—or at least the initial draft. Why? Chances are, they’ve developed exercises and other ways to extract actionable information from your team and get you thinking about your goals it in a different context. This perspective can help you focus on the “why?” behind the numbers and operations—and you’ll be amazed at how the good ideas flow.
Conduct Planning In-Person (and Offsite)
Planning isn’t just about relaying objectives, directives and revenue goals. It’s also a great time to collectively brainstorm. But to make this a success, you need to be in an environment that’s conducive to creativity. Your office has too many distractions, too many opportunities for someone to pull your team away and most importantly, planning for the future while surrounded by the now can yield complacency. Carve out a day or two with your agency team and either have them host or find an offsite location.
Share the Full Story
Not sure how much internal information to share with your agency? My answer: More is better. Revealing only half the story typically results in half the strategy. I understand apprehensiveness about sharing proprietary numbers and figures. Still, when working on programs tied to quantitative goals, having actionable details is a must. And on the flipside, the ability to provide metrics is essential to a successful partnership. It comes down to trust; Do you trust your agency to use those numbers responsibly? If not, start there.
Business in the Front, Party in the Back.
You’re midway through Day 2 with your agency. The meeting room looks like your house after a weekend left in the hands of 15 teenagers and the thought of drinking another coffee, tea or Red Bull makes you want to hurl. The solution? Get out and enjoy some time away WITH your team and your agency. Go out to dinner together. Stay out too late playing bar bocce ball (been there, done that—it was a blast). The takeaway is we’re all humans with our own stories and interests outside of work. Spending time to get to know both your team and your agency’s will help grow personal relationships that can equate to better work. It’s worth it. I’ve seen it. Planning sessions can be tedious, constructive, tense and outright exhausting—the good ones anyway. Learn to balance that with celebration and fun to bring the teams closer and foster more trust and transparency.
Are all client/agency planning sessions home runs? Absolutely not. Can they be better next year? Without a doubt. It all comes down to communication. Push each other and yourselves and you’ll be thrilled with the renewed energy in your approach and your team.
Want to reap the benefits of a strategic partnership with your agency? Let’s talk.
If your agency is tasked with delivering unique insights and building programs that help you meet your goals, shouldn’t they be part of the conversation on how to get there?
About the Author
A 15-year agency vet, Jim has had the privilege of working across just about every conceivable medium and vertical. From established clients to start- ups, Jim’s passion is helping clients tell meaningful stories by exploring what is truly different about their offerings and relaying that in unique ways. Outside of the office, Jim and his wife enjoy seeing as much of the world as possible.