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What makes a good agency and client relationship?

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Whether you work client or agency side, this is something that will be critical to your success.  Strange that the word “side” is used as it paints an almost adversarial type of relationship!  Yes, it’s true that both parties will have specific agendas, but they also have a shared objective of delivering successful marketing.   

I’d like to explore some of the factors that allow a successful relationship to build as this is the best way to deliver that difference. In my experience, the stronger the relationship, the better the result.   

Having worked both sides of the equation, my experience points to a few key factors in delivering a good relationship

Listening

Are you listening to each other?  Often problems arise because both parties are following their own agendas.  Agencies will have their own views and priorities and clients often say they feel they are being shoehorned into a particular product or approach.  Likewise, agencies will feel that the client hasn’t listened to their recommendations. 

The key here is being able to sit back and listen to what each other has to say and evaluating it dispassionately.  An unclear or unrealistic brief is the most common failing and agencies should feel confident in challenging a brief if it’s not right.

Alignment

Is the agency clear about what it will deliver and does the client understand what their responsibilities are?   Assuming the brief is clear, the agency should be able to spot where they can really add value and where the client is best taking the lead.  Likewise, the client should be able to recognise where the agency will be best placed to take the initiative.

Delivery

We all want to be the bearer of good news and probably the most common issue clients see is agencies over-promising and underdelivering.  This is exacerbated if you consider that often this puts the person who has engaged the agency in a difficult position.  It’s human nature to want to please by saying yes or pitching something incredible, but it’s potentially disastrous on many fronts.

A degree of realism is needed from the agency and also a degree of scepticism by the client.  Being brave up front will pay dividends down the line as most clients will value this approach. 

Chemistry

There will be problems and issues in any business relationship, but the right chemistry can cut through this with a set of shared beliefs.  It’s something that can’t be manufactured, but listening, aligning and delivering will help create a shared vision that

Wow-factor

There’s always an inbuilt expectation that agencies will deliver something exciting and fresh every time, but this isn’t always the answer.  Sometimes the work just needs to get done quickly.  What really sets good agencies apart is being able to judge those moments when there’s clear opportunity for injecting creativity in the context of the project. 

Fewer layers

Even if the agency account managers are great, things can get lost in translation when work is passing from the client to the person carrying out the work.  This can result in delays and also the client not necessarily getting exactly what they wanted. 

A radical solution is stripping out this layer for day to day interactions and encouraging clients speaking directly to the delivery team (designer, developer, search technician).  This means account management turns into a more strategic role, looking for opportunities and adding value rather than order taking.

Hopefully these insights will resonate with you whatever your role in this relationship is and by viewing things through this lens we’ll be able to create and sustain a more productive modus operandi!

This is my own take on the subject, but there are some other insights you may find useful!

Good insight into how clients can foster a productive relationships and site has other good resources for agencies

http://bedfordgroupconsulting.com/marketing-insights/agency-relationship-sustainability/

A good view of what makes  relationships work better, including closer collaboration and data sharing

http://www.chiefmarketer.com/advice-for-creating-a-beautiful-agency-client-relationship/