5 Keys to Unlock a Successful Relationship Management Program | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

5 Keys to Unlock a Successful Relationship Management Program

October 15, 2020

By Greg Wright

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Last week, the ANA released the report “The Business Case for Relationship Management” which covers the findings from quantitative and qualitative research conducted by the ANA and the 4A’s. This report looks at the current state of affairs related to relationship management program adoption levels, overall satisfaction, and benefits derived from their use.

If you’re unfamiliar with a relationship management program, this is a formal process to help guide the over-arching client-side marketer and advertising agency partnership. It is a process by which all key aspects of the client/agency relationship are identified, reviewed, and discussed. The intent is to ensure a strong working relationship between client and agency, and provide a forum to clarify expectations and raise issues.

There are numerous key benefits from having a relationship management program, one example of which is better communication between client and agency. Better communication leads to better work (which is done at greater efficiency and speed), and that leads to improved return on investment. Not surprisingly, per the report, clients (86 percent) and agencies (95 percent) have a high degree of satisfaction with better communication as a result of their relationship management program. When the communication flows easily, one is more likely to realize the other key benefits of a relationship management program.

There is great value in ensuring your client/agency relationship is operating at optimum levels and you can achieve that with a relationship management program. That’s why we developed "The Fundamentals of an Effective Relationship Management Program" reference guide to help you build your own program. The guide is part of the full report and is also available as a separate PDF.

Here’s a look at the five keys to unlock a successful relationship management program:

  1. Executive Support. Much like other corporate programs, a senior leader at both the agency and client must be invested in the success of the relationship and support a program to manage it. Without executive support the program’s success will be limited.
  2. Credibility. Both client and agency must also get buy-in from their staff and to do that, the program must have credibility. Too often do we go through the motions and not act on feedback. If action won’t be taken as a result of feedback, then the program loses credibility.
  3. Clear Roles and Responsibilities. Know who is leading the program; evaluating the feedback; addressing the concerns with the client/agency; and so forth.
  4. KPIs and Data Standardization. The old adage, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” is true here. Ensure feedback is non-emotional and on a level-playing field. Set clear standards for how the relationship will be evaluated.
  5. 360 Degree Feedback. Client/agency relationships are not one-sided. Using 360 degree feedback means both client and agency stakeholders are surveyed, with both parties providing feedback to the other. Doing so reinforces that the relationship is a partnership, and like any relationship, it’s important to have a two-way conversation.

Establishing an effective relationship management program can help facilitate active communication and proactive collaboration that leads to better work and improved ROI. An effective program may also enable early identification and mitigation of challenges before they become critical issues.

If you’re struggling with your agency, or client, especially during the pandemic when in-person communication methods have been upended, establishing a relationship management program is a powerful solution to consider. Thank you to the 4A’s for their collaboration on this initiative.

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