Scorecard: Does Your Agency Fondle The Hammer?

Agency Partners Are Critical To The Success Of A Brand
Your strategic agency partners are key to your success.  They bring with them domain expertise, years of experience deploying, and a fresh injection of thinking that most brands can’t foster internally.  As a result, relying on these agile partners outside of corporate walls if often key to responding to new technologies.  Yet, as the technology landscape changes at an even faster pace than ever before, brands must have criteria in selecting the right agencies.

Yet, Beware of Those That Fondle The Hammer
Caution. Agency partners that are focused on technologies –not business needs, can destroy your brand. Although new technologies are emerging at an ever-increasing speed, creating a strategy based on tools will leave you in a churn of change, without anyway to escape.  Agency partners that jump from one shiny tool to the next (hammer fondlers) risk poor implementation, not tying efforts to business goals and worst of all confusing your customers as you over-deploy.

Don’t Let Your Brand Fumble In The Tool Chest — Focus On Building Your House
Stop,  breathe, think.  Business hasn’t changed, just the mediums in which consumers are now using.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just because new channels have emerged.  Instead, focus on your business objectives and how they’ll meet your consumers existing behaviors, rather than yet another “Twitter strategy”.   Rather than developing a strategy based on the latest tool –focus on the end goal of building a place for your customers to come interact with each other, and your brand.  Look for agency partners that focus on customer behaviors, and business goals as the over-arching goal.

Put Them Accountable:  Score Your Agency Partners Now
Use this review scorecard to see how your agency partners stack up now.  Also use this as key criteria in finding new agency partners that focus on emerging technologies.  Print it out, score them, and discuss plans to improve –be wary of those that aren’t ready to adapt.

Scorecard: Does Your Agency Fondle Their Hammer?

Criteria: Why It’s Important Scoring Criteria Points
Strategy: Agencies are trusted partners in defining the direction a brand will head.  Your trust in their experience to understand customers, your needs, and technologies is key.  They must be experts at balancing all three spheres of the Web Strategy Spheres. 5) In addition to the below, develops a strategy based on your customers social behaviors see socialgraphics.

3) Develops a strategy based on your business objectives first.

1) Develops a strategy based on whichever technology emerges.  “You need a blog strategy” vs “You need a two-way communications strategy”.

0) Has no strategy.

Vision & Roadmap. Agencies often come in two flavors: able to see long term based on experience, or unexperienced with only short term tactics.   Your agency should have a track record in adopting new mediums –without throwing strategy out the window.  Look for agencies that can see the long term –in the midst of many fast moving technologies. 5) In addition to number 3 be;pw, allows for flexibility as new tactics must emerge.

3) Long term Vision: Has an over-arching strategy that spans quarters, if not years –not weeks, based upon customer goals.

1) Reactive: Have a different set of suggestions and recommendations based on whatever new technology appears.  Last month, it was a Twitter strategy, this month it’s a Gowalla strategy.

0) Wait for you to tell them what to do.

Partnerships: An Agency’s ecosystems is critical to their ability to implement –especially in a fast moving environment.  Look for agency partners that can work well within your existing ecosystem of partners and technical teams, as well as bring their own set of strategic alliances to the table.  The trick is, ensure your business goals are considered first –not the tools they have on hand. 5) Have a broad set of technology partners.

3) Only have a few technology partners, and coincidently are the same recommendations they present.

1) Has pre-built technologies –but not an agnostic mindset, recommends their technology over and over.

0) Has no alliances or ability to implement recommendations

Proposals: What an agency brings to the table is going to help you determine how strategic your partner is.  Look for agencies that are creative, can offer suggestions that haven’t been done before, or can defend why repeating an existing effort makes sense.  Be sure to look for a pattern of proposals that first meet your customer needs and business needs –not just what they’ve done in the past. 5) When appropriate, willing to recommend other agencies to work with as that’s best for the client.

3) Provides recommendations that are agnostic of their existing tools or experiences.

1) Come to the table with case examples they’ve used for other clients –recommending you do the same.

0)Have no recommendations at all.

Results: The ultimate measurement is the final ROI they provide to their clients.  The proof lies within here.  Don’t put success in fate’s hand, look for agency partners that set goals and benchmarks to achieve, and track their success over time. 5) Exceeds expectations of a positive ROI based on customer and business objectives.

3) Has shown success, but isn’t quite able to justify how it happened –they got lucky.

1) Was not able to demonstrate success –a weak set of customer engagements for a short period of time.

0) Was unable to demonstrate any capabilities at all.

Total: Tally up their score

Scoring and Rating Your Agency Partners
Now that you have scored your agency partners, tally up the sum, then find out where they fall in the following ratings and rankings:

  • 21-25 points: A strategic partner that has your brands best interest in mind and that of your customers.
  • 16-20 points: A strategic partner that has your best interest in mind, but may be cutting corners when it comes to making recommendations for the long term, or truly understanding your customers.
  • 11-15 points: Questionable partnership.  This agency may have their own interests in mind before yours, as a result are certainly cutting corners by making recommendations of recycles campaigns, not thinking long term, or not investing enough resources in thinking long term.
  • 0-10 points:  Doh! Your agency fondles the hammer.  You are at risk. Demand improvements or find someone that can meet your business needs now.

Summary:  Rather than Fondle the Hammer –Develop a Customer Strategy
This scorecard, while will vary from industry to industry is a guideline for your success, having the right agency partners are key to you standing out in front of your customers –or just spinning your resources to no strategic end.  Brands should use this scorecard in their discussions with account teams at their agency, and executive and account teams should hold themselves accountable to their own clients.  With customers moving even faster to mobile, augmented reality, and location based social networks the rate of change is happening even faster. As a result, agencies must be strategic in their approach, or risk damaging the brand of their clients –or worse yet, losing the account all together.

It would be great to hear from brands (buyer) and agency partners on how well they think they would score and why. Looking forward to the discussion.

Download the Scorecard

Above: Roderick Chow, a designer himself, (Twitter) has created this downloadable version of the scorecard, thanks for being a community advocate.

  • Might help to add a scoring guide or did I miss something?

  • Spot on.

  • stevepoppe

    True that Jeremiah. Agencies that participate in Tactics-palooza are not good business partners — though they may deliver a few quick wins. Add to that the fact that large businesses have multiple agencies and you can really begin to see the damage potential. A well-define, well-articulated brand strategy can solve a lot of ills.

  • Dennis, yes there's a scorecard –see above. There's something odd with HTML, (tables) that may have made it not show correctly.

  • cr8tivejen

    So very true. Our agency is blessed to have many tenured clients and many of the top scoring requirements you've listed above are exactly the reason why they've stayed with us for so long. In addition, one thing we often hear is that they value our “push back”. If we feel strongly that a specific platform, message or roadmap isn't right for them, we voice our opinion–and do so regardless of the potential revenue.

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  • love this post! couldn't agree more.

  • Very good assessment Jeremiah. Having an agency partner that can truly focus on KPI's and success factors of the business and develop strategy that enables short term tactics that ultimately align with a broader strategic goal is key. You see more agencies investing in strategic hires that understand how to leverage new mediums but also focus on business objectives. The irony though being from both the vendor and now the agency side is that at times the business is not thinking in this way in terms of KPI's and long term strategy. It is not just the agency. It takes a combined effort from both the business and the agency to partner together, come to a common ground in terms of the goals and then outline a strategic plan that can drive through that is measurable.

  • Excellent insight and tool.

  • I wish more clients would think like this & not approach us with briefs focused on technology.
    “Our competitor is on Twitter so we have to be!” – meh, remembering business objectives is key, as your post says. Thanks for a great post & yardstick.

  • Matthew part of your job as a strategic partner is to elevate the discussion –or you'll be a partner relegated to the toolchest.

    Bring in outside speakers and experts if you're unable to get from the tool table to the strategic table.

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  • Spot on Jeremiah – but not just for agencies. Recently I've been approached by two different companies who thought they'd implement social media by simply hiring an intern or junior person who were heavy social media users, and pick a tool to implement. They are now finding that their social media initiatives aren't meeting the business objectives and/or the communities launched aren't meeting the needs of the membership.

    Why? Lack of business and social media program experience to create a solid strategy and plan (vision and roadmap). No connection between the business objectives, the program, and success measurements. A focus on the tools – fondling the hammer – instead of taking a holistic, educated, methodical approach the program.

    The partnerships section of the scorecard may or may not be applicable to the internal organization – depending on the circumstances. Regardless, your scorecard is appropriate not just for agencies, but also for internal organizations delivering social media.

  • Spot on Jeremiah – but not just for agencies. Recently I've been approached by two different companies who thought they'd implement social media by simply hiring an intern or junior person who were heavy social media users, and pick a tool to implement. They are now finding that their social media initiatives aren't meeting the business objectives and/or the communities launched aren't meeting the needs of the membership.

    Why? Lack of business and social media program experience to create a solid strategy and plan (vision and roadmap). No connection between the business objectives, the program, and success measurements. A focus on the tools – fondling the hammer – instead of taking a holistic, educated, methodical approach the program.

    The partnerships section of the scorecard may or may not be applicable to the internal organization – depending on the circumstances. Regardless, your scorecard is appropriate not just for agencies, but also for internal organizations delivering social media.

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  • Our agency is blessed to have many tenured clients and many of the top scoring requirements you’ve listed above are exactly the reason why they’ve stayed with us for so long. In addition, one thing we often hear is that they value our “push back”. If we feel strongly that a specific platform, message or roadmap isn’t right for them, we voice our opinion–and do so regardless of the potential revenue.

  • Our agency is blessed to have many tenured clients and many of the top scoring requirements you’ve listed above are exactly the reason why they’ve stayed with us for so long. In addition, one thing we often hear is that they value our “push back”. If we feel strongly that a specific platform, message or roadmap isn’t right for them, we voice our opinion–and do so regardless of the potential revenue.