From the marketing agency’s perspective: The secret of a great relationship is the ability to drive results and complete engagements with a happy client who wants to keep working toward success together.
From the client’s perspective: You want the engagement where you not only cross the finish line but bust through the tape and everyone (your peers and senior leaders) is cheering.
While realistically, not every engagement or project will carry that level of excitement or visibility, there are a few secrets to building, not just a relationship with your agency, but a partnership where we grow alongside you—and win—together.
Secret #1: You heard me, “Open the Kimono”
While a somewhat taboo expression, the value of transparency cannot be overstated. A successful client/agency relationship starts with candor. And it goes both ways.
From day one, it’s key to level-set with the team on the business challenges everyone will be facing. Set expectations appropriately, and help the agency set you up for success. Whether there is a gap in your product delivery, a budget constraint, or a challenging stakeholder, by outlining the realities up-front, we can work with you to structure the engagement and address more holistically. In turn, we can be candid around what to expect along the way.
The most creative ideas come from working to solve big, understood challenges. At the end of the day, documents like NDAs are in place for a reason. The agency is here to help you get to market more strategically and effectively, and the best way to do that is by laying all of the cards on the table so we can all agree to where we’re starting from.
Invest the effort in the work, not in dancing around details or hidden agendas.
Secret #2: Involve the Widest Team Upfront
You know “that” team member. The one that comes in at the project finalization stage, just as you’re about to release your work into the wild. They say, “This is great, but I really would have liked us to consider incorporating XY&Z”. We’ve all been there. What’s important to know is we can avoid ending up there next time.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but bring together all of your key decision makers at the start of a project. Involve them in the first kick-off conversation and the first key deliverable presentation. While you may be inclined to want to button things up first, the fact is, this typically ends up costing more time and money. Bring key decision makers into the process as early as possible, to make sure your effort isn’t derailed later. And if there is a lack of alignment arising out of those conversations, great. Let’s address it now while it’s early and we’re all around the same table. As your agency partner, we’re happy to help focus the discussion and facilitate the creative review, but if there is a fundamental strategic mis-alignment, it’s important that all parties have the opportunity to address it sooner rather than later.
As the project or engagement progresses, you can involve less team-members, as folks see the strategy coming to life and efforts become focused on fine-tuning things. Think of the early rounds as directional feedback, and later efforts as tweaking and adjusting small details. Key stakeholders appreciate being brought into the strategic portion, and they equally appreciate being spared from the time spent on smaller details.
Secret #3: The Mark Will Sometimes be Missed
Help your agency help you by providing tangible and frank feedback. If the mark is missed, provide the agency with context into what aspect of the work isn’t aligning with the strategy. It’s not enough to say, “I don’t like blue”. What about “blue” doesn’t resonate with your target audience? Or, what about “blue” needs to be emphasized more or less based on a competitor brand or industry trend?
Be honest, and let us know what’s keeping the work from getting the results you need. Don’t be afraid to speak up and know there are always channels and lines of communication to do so.
Also, understanding what is “good enough” and “when” it is good enough is half the battle. You can spend countless hours and rounds of revision on a small project you needed sent out last week, or you can get it to good enough to go—then move on to the next important thing. For smaller or quicker-turn needs, focus the feedback on the must-haves. Clients who step back and ask “does this accomplish the goal of the project” can provide the strongest agency feedback, and often times the best work.
Secret #4: Take the time to Celebrate. And Celebrate More.
The best client/agency relationships are the ones where you have fun along the way. You need the good days—and even the tough ones—to grow and bond together. It’s the culmination of all of these days that ultimately help create that strong feeling of partnership.
And, when you do hit it out of the park, let the agency know. Did you close that client deal? Did you hit your MQL goals? Did the CEO ask which firm helped create the work? Share the successes and the positive feedback. When the agency knows what’s working, they can do more of it.
It’s no secret that we want to help you succeed. Help us help you win. After all, that’s what we’re here for—that, and the long haul.