The role of an agency is more than that of a buffer between your company and the media. Even as marketers begin to shift in-house and try to negotiate media deals on their own, the value of an agency remains strong. On top of the fact that negotiating deals is often much more complex than many realize, the right agency partnership can bring value to your campaigns that you couldn’t find elsewhere.

The greatest value comes down to one simple factor: experience. Agencies can lend the weight of experience and the power of expertise to your campaign. Rather than focusing on the marketing efforts of your company alone, agencies have the ability to bring the breadth of their client portfolio to the table.

Consider, for example, the array of media options for your message. Every medium has its own unique landscape. Yet with an agency — whether you’re targeting print, TV, or digital — you can find a partner that knows the lay of the land.

Campaign specifics aside, any team can benefit from an outsider perspective. Sometimes, a wild idea can only take flight when it flutters in unfettered by the established creative processes of the group. The right agency can bring in a beneficial outsider voice — you just have to know how to find the right partner.

Finding the Right Fit

Not every agency partnership will offer the experience and vision your company needs. Don’t work with the first agency you find online — discovering the right partner requires careful evaluation.

First and foremost, you need to find an agency that speaks your language. Is there a sense of shared values and a strong feeling of connection? Does the agency understand your brand identity?

On top of chemistry, examine the agency’s existing media relationships and experience. Proven success and strong connections speak for themselves.

As you explore a possible partnership, take stock of the team’s communication methods. If there is a communication gap between the agency and your key decision makers, that’s a significant red flag. Worse still, if the agency isn’t providing a clear view of progress against your marketing KPIs, that’s a good sign the partnership isn’t right.

To See Value, Hold Firm Expectations

While the foundation of chemistry, connection, and communication is essential, it’s not all it takes to have a valuable partnership. There are steadfast expectations you should openly discuss before signing on with any ad agency. They include:

1. Full Transparency

Trust is always a hard sell in advertising. This was punctuated by the Association of National Advertisers’ “Production Transparency in the U.S. Advertising Industry” report, which examined the levels of transparency across the industry. In particular, the report focused on agency practices, and it revealed a troubling lack of transparency across the board. For instance, agency-controlled bidding has led to poor business decisions — the cost of which could be detrimental to marketers.

This is why you must set expectations from the start: A true partner should be fully transparent. There should be no question of the agency accruing hidden benefits on the side. Ask would-be partners for a full disclosure of anything that might compromise the integrity of your business together. If they have nothing to hide, they’ll have no problem cooperating.

2. Financial Accountability

When it comes to transparency, make sure to point out financial statements specifically. Know beforehand that an agency will be forthcoming with how it has spent money allocated for your campaigns. If your agency partner resists regularly sharing financial reports, something may be amiss.

3. Visible Metrics

If an agency can’t tell you how success will be measured, you can’t expect to ever see the return on your investment. A worthy agency partner will have a plan in place to show you the results of your campaign as it progresses. A concrete, visible accountability to your expected ROI is par for the course. Don’t settle for foggy figures — expect and demand informative, actionable data.

When marketers hire agency partners, they hand those partners power over their most sacred asset: money. Fundamentally, the right agents understand that they must be good stewards of that asset. A successful agency cares for and grows it responsibly.

Agencies that achieve this goal are true partners. When you find them, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them.