Brands need to get the very best out of their agency partners and the right evaluation process is proven to add value. Laura Forcetti, WFA Global Lead, Marketing Sourcing, explains.
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Four members of the WFA Global Sourcing Board hosted a first-of-its-kind live session at the end of May to answer WFA members’ burning questions on client-agency performance evaluations.
At a time where most global average advertising budgets have been reduced, it is essential for clients to ensure that they get the best of their agency relationships. That means ensuring that agencies are performing the way clients expect them to but also that clients create efficient/effective environments for agencies to deliver the best outcomes. Ultimately, they need to become best-in-breed clients that agencies are keen to work for.
As explained by a member of the Board, robust agency evaluations correlate with better business performance results. That is something that they realised by simply assessing business performance of those brands that did evaluations compared to those that did not. The data showed that the ones who completed evaluations outperformed those who did not.
Seven key messages came out of the live session:
1. Performance evaluations are an opportunity to give and receive formal feedback with the goal of building stronger relationships
They create a moment to pause and reflect on the overall client-agency relationships and enable both the agency and the client to prioritise what will become more important moving forward. If procurement is leading the evaluation initiative, the improvement of overall ways of working with agencies and improvement in relationships can be seen as a symptom of a great procurement function.
2. It does not matter whether you use a tool provided by a third party or if you have your own in-house evaluation program
Both options can be great. What matters is that you own the IP of the questionnaire, so you can improve and/or evolve your performance evaluation process when you need to. However, as one member of the Board noted: “the benefit of a paid service is that it can include analysis and different cuts of the data, and the ability to compare our results to industry benchmarks.”
3. Review your overall performance evaluation program at least every 2-3 years, and ideally as often as your business changes of direction
This means the process always brings tangible benefits to both client and agency. Keep some questions that you can track year-on-year to ensure consistency across the entire relationship.
4. Take Covid-19 into consideration
In the current environment advertisers may want to evolve their metrics and incorporate some aspects around the flexibility of some agencies during these testing times such as their eagerness to collaborate and/or proactivity. Indeed 55% of those who attended the session said had adjusted or planned to adjust KPIs. As one member of the board explained these could include: “how fast your events agency came with alternative options, how some agencies were able to reuse existing assets and went proactively onto our DAM before offering more traditional options”.
5. It is not just about the tool selection and the completion of the questionnaire
The before and after stages are equally important. Thorough preparation is required to come up with the right set of questions and ensure that all evaluators have the skillset required to provide objective and constructive feedback. Further analysis must be undertaken once the results are in, to harmonise scores across stakeholders and markets, and internally align on the message that clients and/or agencies want to send to the other party.
6. Create a safe environment for your agencies to provide clear and honest feedback on the client performance
73% of the audience agreed that clients should always ask for feedback, with the rest opting to sometimes ask for feedback. However, in the joint WFA/Decideware survey, only 4 in 10 agencies felt that they were provided a genuine opportunity to share feedback on the client's performance. As in all relationships, pain points must be analysed from both sides, that means each question directed to the agency should have a reverse aspect where the agency is asked if the client was able to create the right circumstances for the agency to deliver the best outcome.
7. It is not enough to just ‘ask’ for feedback
Listen to it and take steps to respond during the debrief meeting. In order to give everyone time to digest the evaluation and come prepared to the debrief meeting, clients and agencies should share their respective feedback results prior to the session. An example of appropriate action following feedback from the agency could be the adaptation of internal training programs for marketers (so they can provide better briefing for example). Listening to the feedback and using it to improve both sides of the relationship will highly increase the engagement of all evaluators to take part in the initiative moving forward, as well as the quality of the overall relationship.
The Global Sourcing Board’s mission is to define world-class marketing procurement and set standards that members of our community should uphold. You can find out more about the Board’s objectives here.
For more on marketing sourcing, you can reach out to Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.