Strategic relationships with key business partners are critical to the success of any organization. Partners extend your capacity and capabilities in a cost-efficient way. When it comes to finding an agency, how do you forge a collaboration that will take your communications and marketing program to the next level? Here are five common characteristics that you should consider.

The key to success is building relationships that go above and beyond.

Is your agency partner strategic?

Find an agency that doesn’t just focus on the day-to-day projects, but on providing strategic value to the attainment of your business goals on a consistent, ongoing basis. Anyone can implement tactics. You need a partner that provides audience insight, sector experience, and perspective. Do they come up with novel ideas? Do they help you solve business problems?

Can your agency do more?

Generally, you choose an agency for a specific service or product. But does your agency offer a variety of skills and a breadth of knowledge that goes beyond the work you have asked to deliver? If your agency has a broader tool set beyond your original scope, your agency can grow with you, allowing you to focus on what you do best, and minimizing the need to find, manage and support multiple agency partnerships. This also makes for a more cohesive brand articulation by having all facets of your marketing communications being handled by a single partner.

Does your agency communicate effectively?

Consistent and effective communication is important in all relationships, particularly relationships with your agency partner. Good communication skills include an understanding of how to deliver the right message at the right time. Is your agency responsive to your calls and emails, scheduling weekly or bi-weekly check-ins, sharing company news, and interacting with you on social media?

Is there a fundamental trust?

Openness and respect are the foundation for successful long-term relationships in business. It’s difficult for a long-term relationship to survive if there is a lack transparency from both parties. Trust is a two-way street. When partners trust and respect each other they can cultivate open collaboration and the spirit of experimentation – trial and error – that is essential in today’s marketing environment. Would you allow your agency partner to roll the dice with a creative execution or A/B test about which you are unsure?

Think of your agency as a true business partnership

If you are cultivating the relationship in all the right ways you can work on developing a partnership with your agency—something that goes beyond individual project development. An agency can be – and should be – more than just a vendor. With both of you working together to achieve a common goal, your chances for success are greatly enhanced.