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Ten top tips for building a better client-agency relationship

Ten top tips for building a better client-agency relationship

By Kerry Glazer, CEO of the AAR, a UK consultancy advising marketing clients in search and selection of agencies, contracts and remuneration and agency relationship management.  

In a tough economic climate, a good relationship between client and agency is vital for health, wealth and happiness.As budgets get squeezed and redundancies impact on both parties, it can be all too easy for agency:client relationships to fade or fail.

Here are our ten top tips for establishing and sustaining a healthy relationship.

Partnership principals - the 'Ten Commandments'
1. Start Right 

Set the relationship and partnership up right from day one. Understanding how each other’s business operates. Understand working practices at all levels of the client :agency team, not just at senior level.  Share the business vision and plan, set clear expectations and clearly define roles. Work to one agenda.

2. Invest time

In inducting the agency’s people in your business, in understanding the agency’s business, in sharing the full facts with the agency.   

3. Listen

Perspectives, as we’ve seen, differ.  Active listening, where questions are asked that help you to understand the others perspective and issues combined with regular, constructive feedback and a formalised two-way appraisal process will aid learning and progression for both client and agencies. Listen, understand, feedback... and learn.

4. Be Passionate

Energy, hunger and proactivity  are all elements  that l manifest themselves as  passion, a quality required from both client and agency.  Immerse yourself and your agency in your brand and the market you compete within. Invite challenge and new ideas.
5. Give a Great Brief 

Clear, motivating  and insightful , with a stated, appropriate budget , time to do the job properly and  an agreement before work starts on what success looks like .  Sounds so obvious, but so often briefing is skipped over in the haste to get the job done. 

6. Good manners cost nothing 

Treat your agency as you would expect them to treat you.   No amount of pressure justifies  rudeness and  disrespectful behaviour. And say “thank you” for a job well done – an easy thing to do, but so easily ignored - balance the challenges with  the celebrations. 

7. Be open and honest 

Give your agency permission to be honest and open with you, and vice versa. Issues are easily nipped in the bud if you have the ability to be frank and open with your agency. Give them the bad news as well as the good news. Ensure that what’s keeping you awake at night, is has the same impact on them. 
8. Use and understand process 

Defined working practices, adopted and understood by both agency and client can turn what seems like a mountain into a molehill. Sit down with your agency  at the very start of the relationship and agree  procedures and process for briefing, approvals, budget sign off, etc  - everything that’s going to happen regularly that needs structure gain, an obvious one, but so easy to miss out as the rush to go from zero to 100 takes hold. 

9. People matter

Make sure your own staff and your agency team know what’s expected of them from day one. Ensure you give them clarity on how you expect them to work with you, and not just what you expect them to do. Encourage them to do the same with you.  Make sure there’s a thorough induction process established from the start.

10. Have fun

Getting through the bad tImes is a lot easier if you have fun on a day to day basis. It’s far easier to make demands of your agency when a deadline or crisis hits if they enjoy and have fun working with you.

To read just what tips the relationship between client and agency over the edge - and how to avoid a relationship going into meltdown, click here:

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