While clients and agencies believe building a long-term partnership drives stronger brand performance and positively impacts agency staff retention, building trust and empathy is key to moving the industry out of a short-term mindset, a study released by Spark Foundry Australia revealed.
The qualitative and quantitative study, “In it for the Long Haul? The Parallels of Client Relationship Tenure with Brand Performance”, saw over 100 ANZ agency and marketing professionals across all disciplines and major industry verticals surveyed. Interviews were also conducted with consultants specialising in client and agency relationships.
Spark Foundry’s national head of strategy, Anna Cherry, said the study sought to test three hypotheses:
- Enduring partnerships create greater efficiency and effectiveness:
- Agencies (87%) and marketers (73%) believe longer-term relationships lead to stronger brand performance.
- Three quarters (74%) of all respondents agree or strongly agree that longer-term relationships generate greater trust at a C-suite level.
The study found that respondents believe there is a direct link between brand performance and relationship tenure.
Cherry: “The research shows there is a collective belief that longer-term relationships create greater effectiveness and efficiency. Yet this is completely contradicted in behaviour, with average agency tenures declining and the high frequency of pitches,” she said.
- Creativity and innovation flourish in longer term relationships:
- The majority of agencies (62%) and marketers (61%) agree that longer-lasting relationships generate greater creativity and innovation.
It is ‘creative capital’ – not creativity – that flourishes in long-term relationships.
“While half of those surveyed agreed it’s possible to create great work in the short term, they believe it’s more likely to eventuate in longer-term client/agency partnerships,” Cherry said.
“Respondents told us that trust is what gives agencies the ‘creative capital’ to take calculated risks – which is how innovation is born. Long-term relationships breed trust and understanding, and when you understand each other, you remove the risk from the situation.”
- Long-term relationships aid in staff retention:
- Two thirds (65%) of agency respondents feel that longer-lasting client relationships can help minimise agency staff turnover.
- Only 37% of marketers feel that changing agencies impacts their own marketing team retention rates.
“Significantly, while marketers don’t see agency tenure as a pillar for their own retention strategies, turnover within agencies plays a fundamental role in the job satisfaction of marketing staff.
“What’s clear is that when there is a high turnover of account representatives, it can reduce engagement between the agency and client – impacting the morale of the marketing team because they are constantly having to get new agency contacts up to speed, and nurture new relationships which take time and effort,” Cherry said.
Spark Foundry ANZ CEO, Imogen Hewitt, said: “This research has enabled us to ratify our existing instincts. Clients and agencies alike benefit from sustained commitment to one another and a deep understanding of each other’s people and businesses.
“Enduring relationships create the conditions for alignment, empathy and trust which in turn breeds innovation and better business performance.
“Yet the findings highlight a continuing disconnect between participants’ beliefs that long-term partnerships unlock disproportionate value, versus their behaviours – the continued frequency of pitching. This has been an entirely fascinating piece of work which we will continue to invest in, build on and explore.”
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