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Building a Successful Brand/Agency Collaboration” is not only a great goal but also the title of the panel I’m moderating tomorrow at the Colorado Marketing Summit.

As a preview, and follow-up for those attending, I’m happy to share some of the key insights, quotes and takeaways I pulled from my calls with the following marketing pros and panelists in preparation for the conference:

Kae Penner-Howell, Creative Director, Green Chef
Mary Frash, Marketing Director, Ball Corporation
Cheryl Farr, Founder and Chief Brand Officer, Signal CSK
Nag-Bushan Odekar, Vice President, Head of Marketing, Great-West Financial

7 Key Insights, Quotes & Related Takeaways

A successful collaboration between a company and agency partner takes time. There’s always a honeymoon period, a first conflict, and choices to re-invest in the relationship along the way. But why not invest as smartly as you can from the very beginning?

A great deal of preparation and strategy is often missed in the process of choosing a marketing agency partner you are most likely to succeed with from the start.

Related Takeaway

Have a deliberate, well-planned process for choosing the right marketing partner. Use the agency buyer’s guide on How to Hire the Right Marketing Agency.

Have a deliberate, well-planned process for choosing the right marketing partner. Use the agency buyer’s guide on How to Hire the Right Marketing Agency at To Tweet


“I want an agency that understands the context of where and how I work. Agency partners we’ve had the most success with act like partners instead of vendors. Everyone wants an agency that is trustworthy, but at the end of the day, you also want somebody you can just have a beer with.” ~ Mary Frash

Related Takeaway

For Agencies: Be intentional about relationship building, which helps create great work.

For Brands: Encourage your agency partner to use plain language (not too much marketing speak) so they are better understood by all in the organization.


“The most effective pitch for any idea comes with a demonstration of really understanding the brand and background. Sometimes you’re working with a separate team that has great work, but doesn’t effectively connect it to the strategy.” ~ Mary Frash

Related Takeaway

For Agencies: Always articulate how the work you propose will ladder up to the strategy.

For Brands: Be fearless with feedback, which serves everyone best in the long run.


“Common challenges to a successful collaboration include clarity on both sides about who the real decision makers are in the process, as well as ‘listening between the lines.’ That means hearing what’s really being said. For example, when listening for a client response to creative that’s been presented, is it tepid approval or whole-hearted approval?” ~ Cheryl Farr

Related Takeaway

For Agencies: understanding a client’s consensus building process means you are in a better position to invite them into your own process — and even empower them to sell work upstream.

For Brands: Have clarity and communication about who the decision makers are collectively. Let your agency partner know not only what they can do for your brand, but how they can make you look like a hero as well.


There’s great power in conversation, especially when it comes to understanding purposes, concerns and circumstances. Too much communication is often relegated (and devalued) to email.

Related Takeaway

For Agencies and Brands: Although there is no substitute for a personal meeting, scheduling video (Zoom) conferences where you can still look someone in the eye is far better and more relational than a phone call. If you’re not already doing this regularly, experiment to see if you notice the positive difference.


“Great agencies help clients tell great stories, regardless of the world of digital/omnichannel…pick your buzzword. Agencies should understand creative is the subset of real storytelling, and they must strive to connect media in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the essence of a great narrative.” ~ Nag Odekar

Related Takeaway

For Agencies and Brands: Don’t treat digital marketing, or even front-end and back-end development, as separate from the overall story, narrative and depth of purpose you wish to convey. Balance storytelling with where related messaging can practically live.


“Agencies often presume to know a client’s business because they studied it for three weeks leading up to a pitch. This means they should avoid presenting the grand “ta-da,” making sure to clarify their enthusiasm so they are not mistakenly perceived as a know-it-all.

Knowing our business, being a part of our team and earning our trust will help bring fresh perspectives that aren’t simply mirroring everything we are already thinking and saying.” ~ Kae Penner-Howell

Related Takeaway

For Agencies: Lead with humility. Don’t just bring a big idea, but show how it can be implemented with associated costs and a path to make it possible vs. “here’s a great idea,” and putting it back on the client to figure out how to implement.

For Brands: Provide an internal ally for your agency. Consider leveraging a person inside your company who has been on both the agency and brand side; one who the agency will trust to help translate an idea or approach (which could be valuable at times when your agency is missing the mark, or your team has a lack of understanding).

Related Articles

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How to Hire a Marketing Agency

The One Thing Every Marketing Team Needs to Succeed

Jason Cormier

Jason Cormier

As co-founding Partner of Room 214, Jason is dedicated to helping people and companies grow and innovate. He is a best-selling author of Transformative Digital Marketing, is on HubSpot's Global Partner Advisory Council and serves as a mentor for social entrepreneurs at Watson University. He believes in acting out of love instead of fear, connected leadership and open book management.