July 14, 2015
You’ve finally found it – an excellent client/agency relationship. So much so that you want to keep the engagement and momentum rolling with an agreement renewal. How should you (as the client or the agency) handle this? Who should lead? What questions should be asked? Never fear! Our team comes across this subject often and we’re happy to shed some light on how to make the renewal process as painless as possible.
The One Thing Not To Do
Especially in situations where your agreement is set to auto-renew it can be very easy to assume as the notice date comes and goes, and if no one brings up the renewal topic, that staying the current course is acceptable. The truth is, you’re probably mostly right – but what if you’re missing something small? What if that something small is ok with the client for now, but grows over the newest agreement term and turns into a reason to quit later? This conversation can be fairly simple, so whatever you do – don’t assume. You know what they say about assuming…
Wouldn’t everyone sleep better just to confirm with this renewal conversation that things are going great? If you’re coming at this from the agency side, you’ll also earn a lot of respect from your client if you ask and make sure there’s nothing else you could be doing to push their business further faster.
Who Is In Charge?
Now that we all agree and understand this conversation is one to be had – who takes the reins and leads the discussion? I’ll go back to my previous point above and say that if you’re the agency representation here, you’ve got a lot to gain with your client in starting the conversation. Generally, but not always, the client bringing it up means they definitely have an issue somewhere or want to see an adjustment in one form or another. The adjustment request may not be a bad thing, but they’re not going to actively pick up the phone to let you know everything is perfect.
I would venture to say the agency should take charge and make certain the call or email goes out to set up a chat between the two teams, but the client and agency alike need to be dedicated to making the conversation useful and beneficial.
If you come to the table as the agency with no questions to ask – you won’t get anywhere. Likewise, if you as the client simply nod your head and don’t bring up concerns or confirm where the agency is on the right track – dead end.
No one side should lead or take charge, necessarily, but all parties need to be involved to make certain the next agreement term continues to run smoothly. Further, try to get as many team members from both sides on the phone or meeting in person for the discussion. On the client side, the CMO may have different thoughts or feelings than the week-to-week contact – particularly when it comes to knowing about long-term initiatives and how paid search contributes to those efforts. As the agency, you will always get a different tone with the day-to-day account manager, client services manager and original sales rep. Additionally, the client will likely have different topics to breach with each of those layers in the agency team. Getting everyone involved from the start provides a much clearer/same page picture moving forward.
Topics To Discuss
Again, both the client and agency should come to the agreement renewal chat with some general topics to cover and questions to ask/answer. Here are just a few examples:
- Overall, what are we doing right?
- Same question, but flipped – what are we doing wrong? (Brace yourself, this response could include some surprises)
- Do we adequately address your goals? If so – do you feel as if we’re consistently meeting those goals or providing context to those that aren’t on target?
- Where do you see ad budgets settling over the next 3, 6 or 12 months? (great place for the sales rep to step in and determine if there’s a better agreement option available moving into the next term)
- Are communication points sufficient and thorough?
- Are there any opportunities to get additional team members from your (the client) side to help reduce drag on you running information back and forth?
- Do you feel as though we’re bringing new or outside-the-box opportunities to your attention?
- What channels within PPC should we be in beyond where we are now? (perhaps previously back-burnered engines, etc.)
- Should/could we be moving faster or is that putting our return at risk?
- We’ve been working together for X number of months – are there any agreement changes we could negotiate for longer terms and more aggressive fees/pricing?
- Are there any outstanding to-dos or items you need from us to continue progressing the campaigns?
- Is our team communicating effectively with yours? (how much more can I talk about communication, you guys?)
- Should we be pushing our goals more aggressively?
- Have you seen any shifts in the competitive marketplace that warrant a bigger picture adjustment of goals or strategy?
Now these are just a starting place, so don’t let me drive your entire discussion! These questions can and should vary depending on the length of the relationship so far, past performance from the agency in relation to goals, how mature the client’s brand and company structure is, etc.
What If It *Isn’t* Working?
The ugly truth is that one or both sides could ultimately have a bad feeling about moving forward. Maybe communication or clarity on goals or performance is lacking from either party. Perhaps the client and agency are, in fact, working very well together but there’s a shift in the client’s overall company goals that allow for PPC to be a much smaller (to non-existent) piece of the puzzle. The hope would be that in either of those situations, the two groups come together to find a solution that allows for the relationship to continue, even if in a slightly different format than it had before.
If budgets are being cut on the client side, as the agency see what you can do to help show the overall value of the medium to the C-level you may not interact with often. I’ve seen this happen multiple times and despite everyone’s best efforts – the budgets could get cut anyway. If they’re simply lessened, see if there’s a new solution or scope of work that allows you to maintain the engagement. If not, stay in touch! It could turn out that paid search is something that brand decides to come back to later, and you certainly want to get back in that conversation when the time comes.
Things are GREAT!
Well then you, sir or ma’am, have found an exciting unicorn of a client/agency relationship and everyone needs to treat it with the utmost care. Never, I repeat NEVER take a contract renewal conversation that goes well to mean you can let up on the gas or start getting PPC-lazy. Keep the communication lines open, consistently revisit client goals and whether they can be pushed further or need adjusting, and continue holding one another accountable. This is how long PPC agency/client tenures come to be – and they do exist!
Tell us more about how you handle contract renewals – whether you’re the agency or client. Leave your thoughts, experiences, additions or arguments below. We’d love to keep the dialogue going, and thanks for reading!