With over 22 years experience in PR work, I’ve learned what makes for a successful client agency relationship.
It’s not complicated.
Whether you are the client, or the agency, it is important to have a good balance of intellectual ability and emotional sensitivity.
I want to share my own views on the 7 behaviours and values that build a successful client agency relationship:
Always deliver what you promise. Also make sure you set up realistic expectations and ensure they are met. Does your client want to appear on the front page of Forbes this week? Can that be achieved? Even if it’s not what the client wants to hear, be honest and respectful. In the long run, your client will respect you for it.
Show your client you genuinely care about their business, their products or services. Show that you care about their sales efforts and financial growth. Never forget that their growth may mean more success coming your way. Chances are that if you are part of it, your client will stick with you
Another branch of the business
Create a culture of partnership between client and agency. Ideally, you want to be their business partner, not a mere supplier. If you base your agency offering mainly on price, you’re just a number that can be replaced easily. But if you build your role as a partner, chances are the client will start treating you like one. So how do you do this on a daily basis? Well, to start with, you could follow your client and their colleagues on Twitter and LinkedIn. Share their updates on Facebook. Like posts that you find amusing or interesting. You’ll be surprised how much more you can learn about them and their business.
Your client is very busy trying to finalise sales. They may not have time to send you industry updates, company background or any technical information you may need. So make it part of your role to do some research. You can start by reading industry magazines, articles, news sites or blogs to better understand what they do. In this way, you’ll be able to converse naturally with your client, or on their behalf.
Check their main competitors. Read their blog if they have one. What are their strengths? Are they active on social media?
Also remember they are paying for your creativity and ideas. Share this with them. Don’t wait for them to kick start your next campaign, because this may never happen. It’s down to you to proactively put forward ideas for them to approve. Not the other way around.
Always think and act with your ‘commercial hat’ on. What’s important to them? What is their latest R&D? What markets are they trying to explore? What has worked well until now that may need changing or updating?Are they going through redundancies? Are you feeling their marketing budget may be cut?
Be alert and be respectful. Offer an attentive solution if needed so. For example, if you feel they may seriously cut your marketing budget for the new year, why not come to a mutual agreement? Perhaps offer a ‘slow’ phase where budget is slightly limited. As long both parties agree to it and are happy to pick up the account at a later date, that’s the most empathetic gesture an agency can show a client. They will be grateful for your understanding.
Without this, no wheel will turn. Like in any relationship, even in business, trust is the oil that ensure the engine works perfectly between client and agency. Confidentiality and business sensitivity should always be at the forefront of your mind.
We all like to do business with people we like and respect. Don’t treat your client like a number. Take the time to attend yearly reviews in person. Ensure you make regular calls. Don’t rely just on emails. A voice is important and so is the face attached to the voice.
A good account manager ensures review meetings are planned and organised well in advance. A good kick-off meeting is a priority, in particular at the beginning of each working relationship.
If you are lucky like we are here at Hallam, you will attend a gathering, once a year, where client-agency get together for a drink and a chat. The more you bond with your client, the more you are both going to enjoy the working relationship.
To recap my 7 ingredients for a successful client agency relationship:
- Mutual understanding
- Another branch of the business
- Sharing knowledge
- Mutual trust
- Human interaction
So, which key factors have you found crucial for building a valuable client-agency relationship?