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You've gone through a long, time-consuming search to find the right agency. You invested hours in talking to colleagues in other companies, pouring through credentials, interviewing agency principals, weighing proposals and chemistry.

Want to maximize your ROI? Then understand that it is AFTER your search is completed that the hard work begins.

First, there's the task of getting everyone within your organization to have the right attitude. The best relationships with agencies are true partnerships. Neither accord your agency with some God-like power, nor make the agency the proverbial whipping boy.

Here are 11 “how to” suggestions from the front lines to help you maximize your agency's effectiveness:

1. Invest in the briefing. It's not your last will and testament. But you should treat it like it is. Because it can make the difference between a campaign's life and death. Garbage in, garbage out. Too many briefings are iterations of corporate graphics standards; dig deep into your product's promises and problems and insist that the agency do the same.

2. Demand accountability. You're being asked by your management to deliver return on investment. It's only fair then to ask the same of the people you hire to help deliver it. Require that your agency give you a detailed, quantitative plan for getting you your money back, and then some.

3. Be there. Return calls. Answer questions. Make decisions. Be a pilot, not a passenger.

4. Listen and learn. You've hired outside resources for their expertise and experience. Let them use both to meet your objectives. Question, cajole, prod and probe, but resist the temptations to second-guess and to re-do their every creation.

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Jay Bower (jbower@crossbowgroup.com) is president of the Crossbow Group (www.crossbowgroup.com), headquartered in Westport, Connecticut.