Your agency should challenge you. They should politely prod and ask the difficult questions so they have the information necessary to give you sound counsel and strategy, not just pretty pictures.
They should be interested in your business objectives as well as marketing objectives. Marketing activities that don’t support business goals are a waste of time and money. Period.
Your agency should care about measuring results —both tactical AND strategic results. Everyone can debate shades of green and if the ad concept is “edgy.” Return on investment is the definitive answer about the success of a program.
The worst thing your agency could ever do is to always agree with you. Your team should tactfully say no if an idea or task is unjustified, unrealistic or off-target. See point one above.
Your agency should spend your money like it’s their own. Frivolous spending and mark-ups on outside costs are simply unacceptable.
Your marketing communications team should of course be staffed with talented people. However, they should also be engaging people who you wouldn’t mind sharing a conversation, adult beverage or meal with. You’re going to (or should) see and hear from these people a lot. You should like them.
They should be as passionate about your business as you are (or even more so). You hired them to be experts in this sector and to provide a pulse on the industry. Hold them accountable for this.
Your agency should always bring new ideas and enthusiasm. They may throw out suggestions or ideas at times that are raw or off the cuff, but they should never stop. If they do, it is time to re-examine the relationship.
They should communicate early and often…always keeping you in the loop and sharing intelligence that could impact your business and marketing strategy.
Your agency should always be thinking about improvement. They should be identifying areas for improvement in the program or processes for working with you, and propose solutions on how to fix issue or improve efficiency.

If your firm isn’t following these guidelines, maybe you should talk to them about it. Better yet, maybe you should talk to us about it.