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.

5. Agree on strategy first. Then monitor execution to make sure there's no strategy erosion.

6. Attack the problem. Things go wrong and there is always the tendency in these highly pressurized times to panic, procrastinate and blame. Unfortunately these things don't solve the problem. In fact they often exacerbate it. Jump all over the issue at hand, not your account director. Again, the attitude needs to be “How can we make this better, partner?”

7. Get to know one another. Personal relationships can help you get through professional hardship. While it's usually the agency that wants to know how you tick, it's worth your time to understand what makes your agency team tick. Make sure the key players can communicate.

8. Agree on process. Ask your agency to simply define the way they do things. Make sure their process is aligned with your own to start with. Keeping the agency to the process is one of the most important things you can do. If they're on track with process, they're likely to be on track with budget and making best use of their resources.

9. Respect schedules. If you're asking your agency to meet break-neck deliverable dates, you need to make sure you're doing the same. Phony deadlines are destructive to good relationships.

10. Know thy product (or service). You should know more about your product or service than your agency does. But not much more.

11. Don't beat a dead horse. Sometimes an agency-client relationship just doesn't work. Certainly try fixing it. But then, if the campaign, the people, the relationship aren't what they need to be and the barriers to improvement are too high, cut your losses--quickly--and move on.

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Jay Bower ( is president of the Crossbow Group (, headquartered in Westport, Connecticut.