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Written by Francis Scherer on Thursday 29, September 2016
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Why agency pushback is good for business

Hypothetical scenario: You’re a business owner keen on turning your decently-performing company into the success story you know it can be. You make the decision to sink hard-earned money into much-needed marketing, do some shopping around, and find the right agency. Fast-forward a week or two and your first project is underway. You come back from lunch, check your email and notice that your new agency friends have sent over the first round of creative for some deliverables. You open up the attachment like a kid on Christmas morning and… your heart sinks. “This isn’t what I asked for,” you say to yourself as you write an email to your point of contact saying as much. That’s reasonable, right?

Of course it is!

First of all, any agency worth their salt is going to build 2-3 rounds of revisions into each project you do with them, for the simple reason that creative often misses the mark on the first attempt. The problem is when those 2-3 rounds turn into 4-5. More often than not, this is when the account manager will politely inform you that those changes are outside the original scope of the project, and that they’ll cost an additional X dollars if you want them to happen. Or, it might come in the form of them challenging you on the necessity of those changes. Both instances are examples of pushback, and believe it or not, they do this for a few well founded reasons:

  1. Looking out for your bottom line. At a certain point, every project – regardless of who’s working on it – will exhibit diminishing returns when it comes to “time and money” in, and “quality of deliverables” out. Agencies understand this, which is why they present their best creative work from the get-go: the longer it takes to make the client happy, the longer the project drags on, and the longer it takes for them to move onto the next project. It’s like the 3:00 am rule, but for marketing: rarely does anything good ever happen after the third round.
  2. It benefits the decision-making process. When it comes to business ownership, decision making is a critically important and difficult task at the best of times. By pushing back on what they perceive as unnecessary or unreasonable requests, your agency partners will be providing one of the most valuable services they can: helping you to evaluate and justify your marketing decisions. And in all likelihood, the conversation will come down to this:
    1. If you think the decision is important enough to warrant going over budget, then go for it. But;
    2. If the idea of spending extra has you biting your cheek, know that “good enough” often is.
  3. Finally, time is money. Your business doesn’t give away its products or services, and neither do agencies. Creative work, project management, brief gathering, strategizing, web and app development, ad buying… all things things take time, and time is what agencies bill you for. So when a client makes changes, as small as they make think said changes are, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that timelines and budgets are affected. But here’s the thing: agencies hate charging you extra even more than you hate being charged. Their whole business model is built on keeping clients happy, delivering high-quality work on-time, and keeping their prices competitive. Billing you extra is never something a good account manager looks forward to.

Pushback is not a fun process for anyone, believe you me. Tarryn Corlett said it best in a piece she wrote for AdNews: “Agencies will always aim to treat every client like gold.” The client-agency relationship is a two-way street; the more the former empowers the latter, the happier they’ll be in the long run. But that’s not to say clients shouldn’t hold their agency partners accountable––they most certainly should. After all, what kind of a two-way street would it be if they didn’t?