The quality of the client-agency relationship is the biggest predictor of success. If there is no good relationship, agencies will feel less valued and struggle to deliver better, faster, and cheaper while clients will see agencies as selling, not listening, and not understanding their world. Get it wrong, and you’ll waste heaps of money and miss incredible opportunities.
To build this long-term relationship, you need to know what a client-agency relationship is first.
A client-agency relationship is a tangible and intangible agreement between the client and the agency that is providing marketing services. The relationship starts when the client briefs the agency, continues through the pitch and selection process, and ends when the work is awarded, and a contract is signed. But the relationship goes much further than this to cover how both the client and the agency work together. This includes what the deliverables are under the agreement; the rhythm of meetings, reports, and interactions; how ideas are brainstormed, agreed upon, and implemented; how much collaboration there is between the two parties; how feedback is delivered, and how the contract ends.
This relationship is an important determinant of how successful the work is and how happy the client is with the results. And the best relationships share some common characteristics: trust, collaboration, transparency, mutual respect, accountability, and honesty.
Trust, honesty, and commitment are vital ingredients to the success of any relationship. Honest feedback builds trust and is essential for both parties to show they are striving to meet expectations. Each party must have confidence in the other’s ability.
The agency side of building trust begins with a deep understanding of the client, their products/services, and the people with whom they will work regularly. Knowing the client and the contacts on a personal level will help during times if the campaigns don’t go as planned, for example. Providing updates on a schedule also helps to overcome any unforeseen business issues.
As we’re a marketing agency, we’ll share our role in building a successful long-term relationship with our clients and what we think is the role of the client.
As an agency, we are the ones getting paid, and so the pressure is on us to deliver. Therefore, we ask the right questions to get to know the client and the business; be honest about expectations, timelines, response times, and deliverables (having these conversations early on can help set the stage for success); work respectfully with agreed-upon budgets; be fully transparent and proactive when projects/work will be out of scope; bring in the right set of talents and skills to deliver top quality work; own mistakes when they happen—because they will—and learn from them; show flexibility in being able to respond to shifting priorities and business opportunities; push the client out of their comfort zone with new techniques to try; explore new ideas to explore in our marketing; and serve as an equal partner, not a vendor who takes orders.
Role of the Client
As for the client, they are the ones paying the bill, but that does not mean they can sit back and expect success as they need to participate fully in the client onboarding process so the agency has access to the experts and information needed to learn about the business, commit to being available to and collaborative with the agency team, be honest with their feedback on work delivered, be respectful of agreed-upon budgets and project scopes, understanding that if they want more, something has to give in the existing agreement or be added, acknowledge that mistakes will occur on both sides, but that most will be easy to recover from – as it’s marketing, not heart surgery, right? They understand that the agency team is an outsourced partner with other clients to serve and escalate things beyond the agency’s account manager if they ever feel unheard or uncomfortable with a situation( If this ever happens in our agency, we have a leadership that can step in to help get things back on track), and be open and receptive to new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. While they may ultimately decide an idea doesn’t fit their business.
Both the client and the agency have an equal role to play here in the development of a successful client-agency relationship.
Partnering with a new client is exciting. However, it’s best to avoid diving headfirst into the relationship. Take the time to focus on the vital elements from the start to increase your chances of a successful client-agency relationship.