Resilience: A Critical Team-Performance Standard for Client-Agency Marketing Teams

January 21st, 2021 | Kathryn Fitzwilliam, Principal, Aprais Canada

Children jumping on bouncy toys in the sunlightEven though there is reason for optimism with a vaccine on the horizon, these next few months may prove even more challenging for marketing and agency teams. Pandemic fatigue is the new catch phrase. So now more than ever, managing in a time of crisis is a “make or break” requirement.

During the current crisis, businesses have worked faster and better than they dreamed possible just a few months ago. Maintaining that sense of possibility will be an enduring source of competitive advantage.
– McKinsey & Co.

Recently, Aprais undertook an in-depth analysis of our global database of over 21,000 client-agency evaluations to uncover the defining behaviours of resilient teams – those who rebound in times of crisis. Contrary to what some may think, resilient behaviour is not a quality limited to company leadership. In a client-agency relationship, resilience is needed across all aspects of business performance in all functions and at all levels.

Our analysis shows that the fundamental team behaviours required in times of crisis are the same whether the stimulus is global or local, major or minor. Marketers and their communication partners need to be prepared and equipped to respond rapidly and effectively. This is a crucial driver of performance in the relationship between marketers and their agencies.

How resilient are client and agency teams?

We mapped the agency evaluation of client resilience compared to the overall evaluation scores for the past 20 years. We found little difference between the two. This is hardly surprising. After all, paying clients are in the driver’s seat of a relationship and in an industry now dominated by performance-based payments, agencies are often cautious to be over-critical of client behaviour.

However, the client scores of agencies paint a different picture. Marketers’ evaluations of agency resilience compared with the average score of agency performance, mapped over the past 20 years is consistently lower (weaker) than the overall agency performance scores, on average 3.5% lower. This presents an opportunity for agencies to better prepare for crises. Stronger performance in resilience would enhance the overall client view of the agency going forward.

How to be more resilient

By comparing scores for the most and least resilient marketers and agencies we can quickly see areas of potential for improvement.

This chart shows the gap between the most and least resilient clients (orange) and agencies (green) relative to our key behavioural clusters. The length of each bar represents the potential for action planning to improve resilience in the future.
This chart shows the gap between the most and least resilient clients (orange) and agencies (green) relative to our key behavioural clusters. The length of each bar represents the potential for action planning to improve resilience in the future.

Our data show that in times of crisis both parties need to be more challenging. In our definition, this means using initiative to challenge the status quo in a positive manner, to challenge others and to manage conflict openly and constructively, ensuring that conflict does not fester or go unresolved.

Based on our research and analysis we can offer ten habits for success, for both clients and agencies to be more resilient.

10 tips for resilient marketers

  1. Approval procedures are clear, swift and final
  2. Timely feedback and approval at every stage, guaranteeing speed-to-market deliveries
  3. A single point of accountability that provides clear, swift & final approvals at each stage
  4. Acknowledge changes in direction and the impact on the scope of work
  5. Foster a spirit of partnership and teamwork with the agency
  6. Keep the agency team up to date on client strategy and business challenges
  7. Stay open-minded to innovative thinking and new opportunities
  8. Align and facilitate integrated workflows across all partner agencies and internal teams
  9. Demonstrate flexibility to provide best possible solution given time and budget constraints
  10. Allow agency to re-prioritize deliverables when requests for change come in that may impact the current workload

Download tips for marketers

10 tips for resilient agencies

  1. Readily accessible, responsive and willing to go above and beyond to deliver results
  2. Proactively suggest new initiatives and communications approaches
  3. Communicate changes to team structure promptly and clearly
  4. Work in an integrated and collaborative way with other agencies
  5. Provide estimates promptly to ensure fast client turn around
  6. Continuously improve processes and procedures for greater effectiveness and efficiency
  7. Demonstrate flexibility to revise strategy and longer-term recommendations to fit changing business needs
  8. Demonstrate concern for all those involved in a crisis
  9. Remain calm and professional throughout
  10. Take a leadership role with client to create a cross functional team that identifies actionable steps to react to key market trends

Download tips for agencies

Resilience is a necessary behaviour that is likely to become even more important as a result of the extended Covid-19 lockdown experience. Clients and agencies need to understand how to be more resilient. It will become increasingly important to measure, monitor and develop resilience behaviours to highlight opportunities, to prepare for the future and to ensure team preparedness for crises big and small.

For your copy of the full Resilience report, please contact Kathryn Fitzwilliam.



Kathryn Fitzwilliam, Principal, Aprais Canada

Kathryn brings over three decades of experience nurturing high performing client and agency teams as both a marketing and agency executive. Aprais is the global leader in maximising client agency team and individual performance.

Over the past 20 years, Aprais has conducted over 21,000 evaluations of relationships between marketers and agencies globally. A purpose-built evaluation platform has enabled Aprais to build a database comprising more that 18 million data-points that allows its clients to compare and manage team performance against robust benchmarks with statistical confidence.