Relationships fill every aspect of our lives – both personal and professional. There are good relationships, which we look forward to, and poor ones, which we simply tolerate. Marketing is a people business. In a world that revolves around things as abstract as brands, perceptions and ideas, and where judgments are largely subjective, relationships are bound to be highly volatile and emotionally charged.
The overall success of a client/agency relationship is unquestionably a two-way street. Here are a few ideas that help foster a strategic client/agency partnership and allow both parties to truly get the most out of the partnership.
- Hello? The most effective relationships are about conversation; talk to each other. Communicate openly. When there’s an issue, voice it. When things are absolutely awesome, tell them too.
- Consolidated Feedback. Thoughtful, descriptive, unified feedback from all parties. Both the agency and client should have a point person who consolidates their teams’ perspectives and opinions. Try to avoid “level” input where each level of the organization weighs in at separate times, resulting in multiple rounds and wasted money. Consolidated feedback will allow both parties to experience a higher degree of efficiency and quality.
- Respect the “Process.” Processes are established for a reason. It can be very difficult and challenging to move forward and make progress when processes are not followed. It affects timelines and allocated resources. Priorities shift, things come up and, yes, sometimes deadlines are missed; we’re all human. Both client and agency partners must be willing to uphold their end of the bargain. Agencies need to be flexible; if the client has a defined process, they should be able to adjust. Alternatively, if the client does not have a clearly defined process, they should respect the fact that agency employees are more than likely trained and comfortable with an existing process. Hey, if you hired them for their work, chances are it is the result of a well aligned process.
- Stop, Collaborate. Work collaboratively. Neither the client nor the agency works effectively in a vacuum. The more clients make their agency partner a part of their challenges—all challenges, not just communications—the more effective the agency can be. A well-thought-out partnership should encourage fluid idea generation; don’t wait for the big meeting or presentation – new ideas are fair game at any stage.
- Balanced Budget. Budgeting is an iterative process and discussion. Don’t just set a budget out of context. Understand that there are choices and alternatives on both sides and those need to be vetted. A good process starts the budget conversation early, during planning, when budget ranges are confirmed. As individual parameters are agreed upon as you get to the job level – these can adjust. The conversation should be about alternatives – what are the sacrifices that are needed to hit a lower budget, what are the benefits to pushing the budget number? Finally, billing should never be a surprise. The final estimate, approved by the client, should be the final budget conversation – certainly not the first!
- Have fun! Great teams find time to laugh. To celebrate. To get to know one another. It makes all the difference!
Finding the right client/agency partnership is not an easy task. The goal is to find and develop a positive, collaborative, long-term relationship between both parties. Agencies win clients because of what they’ve done for others. They keep clients because of what they do for them. Both parties must be ready to show they’re willing to learn and trust their partners.