As agencies, we’re often brought in by clients for our specific skillset – whether it is for branding, PR & marketing communications, social media or SEO – to them build and grow their business. Sadly in our industry we often hear stories of where the client-agency relationship has soured and has resulted in disappointment.
Relationships are hard ….no doubt about it! A business relationship is no different, and deserves equal time and effort to make it work. In order to get the best out of an agency here are a few tips on how to start on the right foot and work well together for long-term success.
1. Be clear about what you want
Whilst we may be experts and have experience in our sectors, without a clear brief we are still working blind and can’t provide the best possible solution without understanding all the factors involved.
It continually amazes us how many companies (large or small) still don’t provide a good brief, let alone one that provides insight to the company and its strategic business direction.
Part of that brief should include a company’s story and background. Why does it exist, what does it offer its customers, who are its customers, what does it want to achieve? As an agency we also want to be part of that growth and need to know how our activity should support a client’s overall plans and goals.
This clarity not only provides an agency with direction but also avoids what we find most stressful – a client who doesn’t really know what they want, consistently changing their mind and consequently wasting everyone’s time, money and energy unnecessarily.
By sharing this vision clients are not only able to identify the right agency to work with more quickly, but find one who equally shares their passion and enthusiasm to help them grow.
2. Do you have the budget?
Like many employees we enjoy life’s simple yet important pleasures such as paying our mortgage, paying our bills….eating….. No matter how an agency breaks down their rates – we do need to charge and be paid, on time. It’s important for clients to factor this in to their own budgets.
If budget is an issue – let the agency know straight away. They may be able to work around budgetary constraints if it’s a project or client they believe in. They may perhaps suggest a series of projects instead of retainer work or advise what can be achieved within a limited budget.
There is nothing more frustrating than asking an agency to be ‘creative’, asking us to waste time and effort providing expensive solutions clients can’t possibly afford. Creativity is not just the production of wacky ideas – it’s also the thoughtful solutions we implement to overcome your business challenges.
Once a client has appointed an agency the hard work doesn’t stop there. Openness, honesty and transparency are the key things for a successful business relationship. Like Jerry Maguire pleading with his clients “Help me, help YOU!” We’re here to act on our client’s behalf and we have their best interests at heart. We can’t do our best work if our clients are closed and not communicating – it’s not conducive to a good partnership.
By keeping agencies in the dark we could miss an important factor to enhance (or even protect) our client so it’s important to bring in agencies more closely so we can provide our advice and also expertise.
Also through the ability to communicate well, agencies and clients will not only understand each other better but also challenge each other to get the best results.
4. Planning and timings
Involving an agency in the process from the beginning means they are able offer advice, expertise and also solutions to ensure the project is a success, dealing with matters proactively rather than reactively.
Sometimes an agency won’t receive a brief until the project has been fully approved and created by the client. As a result, factors which would have enhanced the campaign further have been overlooked by a client to enable the agency to do their job effectively or even better than expected. Agencies are often handed a project without enough time to implement the campaign as successfully as it could.
5. What does success look like to you?
Every campaign, every project and every retainer must have targets from which we can measure and evaluate, and importantly, review our activity.
The review process is critical to evaluate whether the activity had any impact but also where next the money could be better spent. With the right brief, and the right expectations as to what a campaign will deliver, both client and agency can be confident that they both understand what success looks like for their companies.
As businesses ourselves, it’s genuinely not in our interest to have dissatisfied clients – we want to shout about the great work we’ve done and help our clients hit their objectives and goals. We want to work with our golden clients for longer and in turn, attract more work for our great campaigns. However it’s a two way process and getting it right first time will help build a better strong relationship with an agency which will achieve growth and success for any company.