Feb 14/17
By Kerri Benecke

Dear Kerri

Dear Kerri: I’ve heard horror stories of clients burning out their agency partner, and want to avoid making that same mistake. Could you give me some tips?
–Client-side Newbie

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Dear Client-side Newbie: A client-agency relationship shares a lot in common with a marriage. It begins with the charm and infatuation of courtship (the pitch), which leads to a legally binding commitment (the PO or retainer), followed by a short honeymoon. And then reality sets in. The agency realizes that the client wants things done impossibly fast. The client realizes that the agency is seeing other clients. Budgets, deadlines, and expectations all surface to test the new bond.

Like any marriage, only a client-agency partnership based on mutual respect, trust and open communication will stand the test of time, fulfill both parties, and lead to success.

I’m on the agency side of this equation. And like any typical spouse, I’ve got plenty of suggestions on what my significant other could do better. To start, here are five tips that can help lead you to a mutually successful happily-ever-after:

  1. Agree on goals and expectations.
    Just like alignment of values in marriage, alignment on project goals beforehand is key. Setting clear goals and expectations will help ensure success. To start, collaborate with your agency partner on the creation of a detailed creative brief that documents the objectives and strategies in advance (this keeps us both honest). The creative brief also helps your agency capture details about you and your industry that will help them build successful creative solutions.
  2. Keep your family in the loop. (i.e. stakeholders)
    Make sure to keep any significant stakeholders involved throughout the entire project. Having support from key decision makers is crucial to any project’s success. Get them involved early on initial brainstorming, review rounds and final approvals. This allows for a collaborative, unified process and avoids missed expectations and costly restarts.
  3. Be realistic with your timelines.
    You wouldn’t expect your significant other to whip up Thanksgiving dinner in fifteen minutes. And if you did, you’d likely be disappointed in the outcome. Immediate gratification can be tempting, but when it comes to your brand and marketing efforts, it takes time to get it right. Too little time can compromise quality, while too much time can delay important milestones. Collaborate with your agency to set reasonable deadlines and you’ll both be happier with the delivery.
  4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
    It’s the foundation of any successful relationship. Never miss an opportunity to express your thoughts, positive or constructively critical. An open line of communication will ensure expectations are met and your opinions have been shared. When it comes to feedback, the most successful input will be clear, consolidated, and actionable.
  5. Trust your partner and the process.
    Your agency is the expert, and you’ve chosen them for their expertise. Trust in their process. An experienced agency’s process is designed to reach a successful solution in the most time- and cost-effective manner possible. They know how to avoid costly mistakes and keep a project from going off the rails. Commit yourself and your team to the process, and trust that each phase has a purpose.

When you forge a relationship that sets clear goals, engages all stakeholders, and fosters mutual respect and open communication, you and your agency will live happily ever after.


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