If you read my latest blog, How Do You Find a Great Digital Agency, you might have recently hired a new digital marketing agency to help you. Now that you went through the stressful process of deciding who to partner with, how do you ensure that the relationship will last?
In this blog, I’ll outline the most important ways you can foster a productive relationship with your agency.
In my experience, the most essential aspect of a client/agency relationship is trust. Like any relationship, both parties must trust each other and have their best interests in mind.
Our agency loves the saying, “We work at the speed of trust".
What does this mean? It means that we need you to trust our suggestions and recommendations. We also expect you to trust that we will be using our time wisely to benefit your organization. What do we look for in a client? We trust that you will provide us with the information, access, and tools we need to be the most efficient marketers.
Trust is a two-way street. In my experience, when one of the parties in the business relationship starts to waver, the writing is on the wall for one of the parties to exit.
Honesty is an essential factor when two parties come together. I don’t mean not lying to each other, but more so being honest with yourself. I’ve seen and heard of agencies promising deliverables that are well outside of their capabilities. You should never hear: "We'll get you to #1 on Google." That is likely outside of their control. And, it's downright irresponsible to make claims like this. From the client's perspective, I’ve heard: “We want to take over the world." While simultaneously providing the agency with a shoe-string budget.
For a great relationship to succeed, you need to be realistic and honest with yourself and with each other. Your goals, plans, and expectations need to be reality-based. This sets a clear path towards business wins that benefit both parties.
This one should go without saying. Yet, there hasn’t been an agency that I have worked at where I have seen one person disrespecting another. Sure frustrations and deadlines get people heated. I understand how people can slip up occasionally. Yet when you treat clients or agencies without respect, serious issues arise. Every time I have seen this happen, the relationship ends shortly after.
Both parties need to agree that when there is disagreement or animosity, they will take a step back. Have a calm conversation about the situation, address the problems and if a conversation doesn't solve the issues from that point, it wasn’t meant to be. I’d recommend each going their separate ways.
In addition to respect, you also need communication. In my experience, the best relationships come from clients that can sit down to a fun dinner together. They can also discuss hard topics like money or effort in a reasonable manner, because they know that clear lines of communication almost always alleviate problems. Clients and agencies that talk often and openly have great relationships that last. Ongoing communication helps clear up blurred lines.
Make sure you have a plan to talk and talk often. This will ensure that both parties clearly understand each other. If you find that you don’t have time to talk to your agency or client, you probably have a staffing issue.
I cheated and took part in athletics most of my adolescent and young adult life. This taught me how a cohesive group achieves things that one individual cannot.
Teamwork is vital in an agency-client relationship.
Two separate parties are now working towards common goals. Both must understand that they must contribute in certain areas to ensure success. Working together without this understanding is a recipe for failure. I’ve seen clients say, “Well I pay you to do this stuff.” Yet they haven't provided the critical information the agency needs to reach the goals. This is extremely frustrating for both the client and the agency.
On the flip side, some agencies take part in a discussion, then run away for weeks, only to come back and say this is what we are doing and what we think. This eliminates the clients' say in strategy, creative, or execution. Have a process and cadence that keeps each other informed is the best way to collaborate.
With Valentine’s Day still fresh in our minds, I wanted to share some of my best tips for fostering a healthy client and digital agency relationship. Sure, some of my points may sound cliché. But, I have seen examples of good and bad business relationships. Some have exceed my expectations in these categories and some have run off the rails.
You have invested a great deal of time looking for a digital agency. If you want the time you put into that search to be worth the effort, try to follow some of these steps.
If you are already working with a partner and have some issues with your relationship, set up a time right now to talk. In this meeting, remember to share both where your counterpart does a great job and the areas that are lacking. This type of conversation can help save your relationship. You'll get more mileage for the time you’ve already invested in the relationship!