What are the key factors to consider when it comes to building a strong client-agency relationship? Our Client Director, Lee Satchwell, talks us through 6 top tips to ensure success – from setting expectations to enabling collaboration between partners.
How to build a strong client-agency relationship, and why it matters
The client-agency relationship has been around for over 200 years, so you’d have thought we would have cracked it by now. Anyone who’s been involved from either side has some stories to tell - the good, the bad and the ugly.
The bad relationships, the ones that don’t quite turn out as you planned, are a real blow. All that time and effort (as well as money) for it to not live up to its early promise and expectations.
Get it right though, and a successful relationship can bring joy and prosperity long term. And that relationship becomes an equally respected and trusted partnership.
Here we’ve considered 6 key factors that make for a successful client-agency relationship.
1. Immerse the agency in your brand
No one knows your organisation quite like you, and we want to know everything about it. A brand immersion day with your account team is an invaluable way of getting your agency to see the brand through your eyes. It also gives them the opportunity to really buy into what makes it so great, and to recognise its ambitions for the future.
For new relationships just starting out, this is the perfect way to accelerate our understanding during the onboarding process, enabling us to really hit the ground running. For more established relationships, it’s just as important to keep up to date with the positioning of your brand and to reaffirm those values.
The aim of any agency should be to become an extension of your own team, and this shared knowledge goes a long way.
2. Encourage a culture of honesty and transparency
The best relationships need trust from both sides. By sharing objectives, we can fully understand where the business is looking to get to – whether that’s in three months, in 12 months, or within the next five years. Our aim is to plan how we can take that journey with you.
But this is not limited to business objectives – share your personal objectives too. Achieving personal growth is a huge motivator, and if we can understand what you want to achieve in your role, we can work with you to do just that.
Likewise, expect to hear your agency’s objectives, how they plan to grow, what new products and services they are looking to develop and how you will play an important role in that.
Additionally, a big contributor to the success of a relationship between client and agency is the ability to have an honest conversation. Be willing to give regular constructive feedback (the good as well as the bad) for the continuous development of the individuals working on your account and the agency as a whole. Frequent communication and regular check-ins enable any minor niggles to be picked up and addressed before becoming an issue. The best agencies have processes in place to learn and act on feedback, which in turn strengthens their ability to lead your growth strategy.
But feedback works both ways. Be open to any feedback about your own team. A 360 view re-enforces our partnership and emphasises that we are all working towards the same goal. It also removes any bottlenecks that prevent us from achieving growth.
3. Set and agree clear expectations
Confusion around what is expected is one of the easiest ways a relationship can break down. From the very first kick off meeting, expectations around what will be delivered and what will be required to deliver it need to be set – from service to results and delivery.
Agree KPIs and track them week to week and month to month, so that focus is never lost on the core objective. Revisit these KPIs every three months as part of strategy review meetings to ensure they are still the most appropriate. Business priorities can and will change, and we need to be agile enough to adapt.
4. Take part in regular ideation and planning sessions
Both client and agency teams are filled with talented people with game changing ideas. There is even more talent sitting outside of the core team. Ideation and planning sessions are a chance for all of this talent to get together in a room (or a Zoom!) and start throwing ideas out there. What’s the latest challenge facing the business? What are the goals we need to achieve? These creative sessions provide the platform to showcase the shared talent and passion we have at our disposal and give exposure to experts outside of your day-to-day contacts.
Even if the current strategy is working well, there are always opportunities to grow and do even better.
5. Broaden the relationship
It’s easy to live in a client-agency bubble; a linear relationship between core contacts focussed on hitting KPIs. But this can limit the opportunities to look past the day-to-day and see wider opportunities to grow.
The most successful, long term partnerships we’ve seen are those where the relationship spans multiple departments and all levels, from executive right up to MD/CEO. It provides the opportunity to understand wider business challenges and how these fit into our overall objectives, as well as to discuss possible solutions.
Mapping these relationships to the most appropriate people ensures the conversations are relevant and of value to both parties.
6. Enable collaboration between other partners
We’re aware we might not be the only agency you work with. Different agencies offer different services and specialisms, but we’re all working towards the same goal of driving growth for your business.
Sharing plans and data between key partners ensures strategies are aligned and complement each other. Just as we integrate between our internal SEO and PPC team, passing insights and recommendations to support and optimise strategies, the same can be done between agencies. Likewise, the social media team collaborating with the creative agency, or the content team linking up with the PR agency. We’re all aiming to drive success for your business, and we can do this better together.
If you’re not already covering the points above with your agency it could mean that the relationship isn’t fulfilling its potential. Work with your agency and enable them to become a true partner built for growth and success.
To learn more about the services we offer, book in a conversation today.