Hopefully They're Fast Learners.

Every client has faced a challenge or two (or eight) with their advertising agency. How do we know? Because we asked 47 healthcare marketers to share their top 8 agency challenges (see our survey results) and they shared a lot!

Fortunately, there are some practical steps you can take to improve your agency’s performance before it gets to the point where your only option is to find a new agency.

The first thing to remember is the fact that agencies are in the service business. Every agency wants to meet the performance expectations of their clients but sometimes they need a little instruction to get it right.


Share what's working, and what could be working better.

Communication is critical so set up regular performance discussions with your agency and share both positive and negative experiences. The good feedback is always welcome and always improves agency performance. The not-so-good feedback is even more important. Don’t be shy! The faster you share negative feedback, the faster the agency can correct it. Even minor frustrations should be shared so the agency can take action. Little things can become big challenges if they’re not addressed early in the partnership.

Most agencies fail to regularly ask about what they are doing right or wrong. (They try to get a sense of it from your reactions.) Take the lead in providing feedback proactively and your agency should respond accordingly.

Use mistakes as teaching moments.

Mistakes happen. It’s just part of being human. If they’re minor and infrequent, they should be addressed with understanding to maintain a healthy relationship. However, if something significant goes wrong, it’s time to do a deeper dive into what happened and why it happened.

What’s most important is how everyone learns from mistakes. The best advice is to create an environment that encourages open and honest dialogue. Both sides should be able to raise issues and concerns and suggest possible solutions.

If the problem is on the agency side, ask for specific steps the agency is taking to prevent the same mistake from happening again. This also allows you to hold them accountable.

Demand transparency.

All agencies have internal processes. While they may have different catchy names, they’re basically all very similar and none of them are state secrets. Ask to learn about your agency’s processes, and don’t take no for an answer. Understanding how your agency works will help you understand how your work is being done and the typical time it takes to do it well. In the context of poor execution, knowing their processes enables you to ask more pointed questions if/when breakdowns occur.

Review work early and often.

The more you’re part of the process early in the development of a project, the more you can share feedback which saves time, money, and frustration for everyone involved. Best of all, your agency will learn your unique likes/dislikes and they should adapt accordingly. Each project should be better than the one before.

Of course, two things must happen to make this possible:

  • You need to accept the iterative nature of the work and tailor feedback accordingly.
  • Your agency must adapt their processes for earl-stage reviews, which can streamline efficiency and improve the final output.

If you want to DEFY convention further, integrate your MLR team members into the early stages of each project. An agile agency partner should be able to help identify how to best apply this type of process.

If you're doing your part and still not getting results, it may be time for a change of agency.

Just like the classic song says, “breaking up is hard to do.” But sometimes, it’s for the best. At DEFY, we didn’t just write the four steps above, we live them every day. We even have processes in place for those impossible deadlines that pop up when you least expect it. Contact DEFY and discover how we’re reinventing the healthcare marketing agency model for the better. Call 1-844-LETS DEFY or message us at defyit@thedefycollective.com.
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