The Business Case for Relationship Management | ANA

The Business Case for Relationship Management

Relationship management is what guides the over-arching client-side marketer and advertising agency partnership. A relationship management program is a platform for discussing the value exchange between the two parties — not just at a single point in time, but on an ongoing basis, with a focus on continuous improvement. It is a process by which all key aspects of the client/agency relationship are identified, periodically reviewed, and openly discussed, with the intent to clarify expectations, raise issues, define success, and optimize the working relationship.

The Business Case for Relationship Management (Full Report)

This report covers the findings from quantitative and qualitative research conducted by the ANA and the 4A's. The purpose was to measure the current state of affairs related to relationship management program adoption levels, overall satisfaction, and benefits derived from their use.

A strong relationship management program with at least an annual 360º evaluation component is key to ensuring a long-term client/agency relationship that is built on trust. The ability of a strong relationship management program to foster trust and a long-term positive client/agency relationship is a sentiment expressed throughout interviews with marketers and agencies.

Key findings include:

  • 66 percent of marketers and 34 percent of agencies currently have a formal client/agency relationship management program. That disparity reflects to some degree the fact that the ANA survey was sent to its Agency Relations Committee, a best practice group that is more likely to have such programs than overall ANA membership.
  • Marketers and agencies both expressed a strong degree of satisfaction regarding the key benefits of having a relationship management program in place: better communication, greater efficiency, better work, improved ROI, and greater speed. Better communication between marketers and agency leads to better work (which is done at greater efficiency and speed), which leads to an improved ROI.
  • Relationship management program organizational structures and management come in different forms. The 'team' that manages the program for the marketer can be a separate team or the responsibility can be rolled into another function (e.g., procurement, finance, or brand teams). On the agency side, the responsibility is usually given to the account director or account manager working with the specific client.
  • Most clients and agencies conduct at least annual evaluations, with many agencies conducting reviews more often (quarterly). However, the use of 360º evaluations is far more prevalent among marketers.
  • Almost half the clients surveyed have a clause about their relationship management program in their agency contract.

The health of a client/agency relationship is built on trust. It is in both parties' best interests to maintain a long-term successful client/agency relationship. Both marketers and agencies spend a great amount of time, energy, and expense establishing a relationship, including conducting the initial agency search to find the right partner. Ensuring the longevity of the client/agency relationship is critical. A relationship management program can help get a new client/agency relationship off to the right start and keep it on track. A good relationship management program can also help existing relationships maintain or rebuild a strong foundation.

Source: "The Business Case for Relationship Management." ANA/4A's, 2020.


About the ANA
The ANA (Association of National Advertisers)'s mission is to drive growth for marketing professionals, for brands and businesses, and for the industry. Growth is foundational for all participants in the ecosystem. The ANA seeks to align those interests by leveraging the 12-point ANA Growth Agenda, which has been endorsed and embraced by the ANA Board of Directors and the Global CMO Growth Council. The ANA's membership consists of nearly 1,600 domestic and international companies, including almost 1,000 client-side marketers and nonprofit fundraisers and 600 marketing solutions providers (data science and technology companies, ad agencies, publishers, media companies, suppliers, and vendors). Collectively, ANA member companies represent 20,000 brands, engage 50,000 industry professionals, and invest more than $400 billion in marketing and advertising annually.