Why Agencies Need to Play Nice In the Sandbox

Think back to the days when you came up with your best ideas on the playground.

Specifically, let’s reminisce about sandboxes.

Besides being a germophobic parent’s nightmare, sandboxes serve as a central hub of juvenile creativity and friendship.

Impenetrable fortresses or entire nations of towering sand buildings can be built with just a few shovels, pails, and wild imaginations working in tandem.

But the sandbox can also be a disputed territory, where alliances get broken, relationships get ruined, and castles get destroyed.

All it takes is one unruly, combative child who doesn’t understand the value of teamwork.

Don’t Be That Agency

As adults, unless vacation plans are involved, thoughts of sand likely make you wonder how you’ll clean it out of your shoes.

All joking aside, lessons we learned decades ago on the playground still apply to our lives as marketers.

The fact is, agencies get worse results and have less fun when they don’t know how to, or refuse to, play nicely.

When you try to do it all, you might log a bunch of overtime hours, and it may look like you’re working hard, but in the end your product is inferior.

It doesn’t take much to tarnish a reputation.

If your agency is known to overwork and under-deliver, you can kiss any chance of a good review or client referral goodbye.

Word spreads quickly in the agency world, where gossip tends to be written in permanent marker.

Garnering a reputation of refusing to play well with others will follow you forever.

If you decide to change your mind about collaboration, it might be too late.

Not all agencies are good at every aspect of marketing.

Clients get that.

If you’re transparent with them and explain that you’re going to call in a few specialized buckets and shovels for the job, you’ll be seen as an agency that cares less about its ego and more about results.

How Agencies Can Build Castles Together

Collaboration between agencies shouldn’t be seen as a game of tug-of-war.

Instead, it’s a civil meeting of the minds when trust and understanding are built, roles are established, and goals are aligned.

Check your ego at the door.

Collaborative marketing is meant to be a boon for business, not a contest of one-upmanship.

You are there to support one another and the client.

Most of all, you are there to be profitable.

When it comes to agency partnerships, it’s paramount all parties over-communicate.

Someone from the lead agency should step up and serve as head moderator.

They should organize frequent in-person meetings between the teams to discuss and analyze all progress (and stumbles).

Everyone should be working off the same intelligence, and the plan of attack should be abundantly clear after each gathering.

Company culture also plays a major role here.

Two agencies that have core values centered on creating a top-notch client experience can forge a lifelong relationship.

My agency, for example, has regularly partnered with one particular agency for the past nine years.

We’re always available to brainstorm ideas and help each other win business.

Sandbox Playground: Who Lives In Those Castles?

Let’s acknowledge the other real winner of sandbox unity: The client.

When agencies work together to create the best result for the client, as opposed to what makes each agency feel the most important, there’s a multiplication of efforts.

Rather than being simply the sum of each agency’s contributions, the complementary specialties build off one another, cutting costs in one area, adding content in another.

Instead of three or four small sandcastles, the client receives a magnificent Taj Mahal sand sculpture, with the contributions of the cooperating agencies seamlessly blending.

When clients receive a superior plan and activation, they come back for more.

They tell others.

They put more sand in the box for you to play with.

Focusing on client results is always a great idea, and focusing on how you and another agency can work together to augment those results is a brilliant strategy.

Marketing agencies employ some of the most imaginative people in the world.

Achieving great work shouldn’t be an isolated struggle.

It should be a collaborative goal.

When you place teamwork above ego and petty rivalries, your clients (and the future business they send you) will thank you generously.

Everyone benefits when you play nice in the sandbox; amazing things get built!

image credit: shutterstock

Steve Randazzo

Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., an experiential marketing agency located in Missouri. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has longstanding relationships with big-name clients, including Dr Pepper Snapple Group, The Walt Disney Company, Hewlett-Packard, Duck Brand, Fiskars, Citgo, the NBA, and Tractor Supply Co.

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