The Client and Agency’s Guide to Strong Starts and Mutual Greatness

Part Two in a series of article about effective marketing and advertising agency-client partnerships. Contact MindEcology to extend the conversation.

Now that client has said “you’re hired” and agency has said “you’re signed”, what needs to happen next to make a strong start that leads to marketing and advertising greatness? For starters:

Figure out the housekeeping.

The mechanics of billing and status reports don’t make for many exciting “Dear Diary” moments, but they’re important components of the work agencies and clients do together – and often, they’re the sources of confusion or misunderstanding that cause otherwise good relationships to run into trouble.

Whether you’re on the agency or the client side, you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same page regarding:
– Terms of payment
– Frequency and formatting of reporting
– The approvals process
– Project management tracking
– Record keeping and document storage
– Communication. This last one can be particularly complex. You’ll want to find out when you can call each other on mobile phones, how early or late you can call, if texting is okay, if email or IM is preferred, etc.

Be patient.

“Genius is eternal patience.” Smart agencies and savvy clients understand the wisdom of this aphorism from Michelangelo, who probably had to exercise a lot of it when he was dealing with the RFP for the Sistine Chapel. Killer agency-client partnerships are not forged in five minutes – and every moment of even the strongest partnerships is not going to be marked by mutual harmony and unqualified success.

That’s why it’s important to give each other time to build trust and develop a steady rhythm of work, and why it’s even more important to not let bumps along the way distract you from the bigger picture.

Give and receive feedback with accuracy, honesty and diplomacy – and practice active listening.

Nothing tears up an agency client relationship as much as the following:
– Clients who give vague, conflicting, or uninformed feedback.
– Agencies who don’t listen and respond to feedback.
– Agencies who get irritated or defensive when their ideas aren’t met with enthusiasm.
– Agencies who argue with clients during the feedback process.
– Clients who confuse expert advice with arguing.
– Clients who are unduly negative when giving feedback.

Diplomacy goes a long way – however – honesty is more important at the end of the day. A response such as “I don’t like it and here’s why”, while blunt, is going to keep things moving along a lot faster than responses that are overly-focused on not hurting anyone’s feelings.

Unless you’ve brought your magic wand to the party, don’t expect miracles.

Aim high, but keep your feet on the ground. If you’re asking your client to move with lightning speed on approvals, or you’re asking your agency to pull off a last-minute campaign when you have no time or money to invest in it, you need to be realistic about the kind of results you can expect under those conditions.

And speaking of time – make sure you don’t skimp on it.

A client that feels like their agency is always rushing them out the door in order to deal with another project is going to have trouble trusting in and advocating for the agency’s work, even if it’s on time and adequate.

Similarly, a client that never wants to sit down with their agency and give them a little care and feeding can’t reasonably expect the agency to turn out platinum work – that would be kind of like failing to water your plants and being irritated when they get droopy or die.

Avoid auto pilot.

Efficient advertising agencies who work with equally efficient clients often make the mistake of falling into auto pilot mode – they may even smugly congratulate themselves on the fact that they regularly clear a ton of work with few meetings, calls, and emails.

Around the time you’re congratulating each other is usually the time when something goes wrong as a result of too much automation – a missed opportunity, a misunderstanding, a mistake that happens when the marketing director “just assumed” that the agency account manager knew something important. Auto pilot is fine for short periods when other projects take priority, but it’s no way to sustain a strong working relationship.

Related Articles:

“How To Find, Interview, and Hire the Right Advertising Agency”
“Trust. It’s Good for Agency-Client Partnerships.”
“Q&A With MindEcology: 5 Things To Know About Effective Agency-Client Relationships.”

If you gotta (marketing) problem, yo, we’ll solve it. Random ’90s music lyrics no extra charge. Get in touch with MindEcology.