I have been a Marketer for more than 20 years. I have worked in retail, non-profit, and the entertainment industry, and spent the last 15 years working with some of the biggest brands within agencies. Regardless of the company or the industry vertical, I have learned the most critical element for success is a strong client-agency relationship.
For die-hard agency folks like me, nothing beats the rush of a successful pitch and bringing on new clients. However, developing strong, long-lasting client-agency relationships—regardless if you are in an agency setting or selling services directly B2B or B2C—is critical to the success of your business. So what do we do to develop and sustain strong client-agency relationships? Simply, stay focused on the basics:
Be on Top of Our Communication Game
- Understand clients’ expectations and define what they can expect from you and your organization. It is important to create accountability on both sides of the client-agency relationship.
- Be responsive. Acknowledge the clients’ communication. Summarize your next steps.
- Ask questions and listen some more.
- Go old school. It is so easy to shoot an email that gets lost in the “inbox”. Periodically just pick up the phone.
- Keep in touch. Establish a regular cadence of communication be that weekly touch-base emails, status updates, or simply a semi-regular opportunity to talk.
- Know your own strengths and weaknesses, and those of your organization.
- Owning your mistakes can make a client-agency relationship stronger. When that inevitable issue comes up, remain focused on the solutions at hand.
- If you know your team is going to miss a deadline, or if you know it’s going to take you a little longer to sort out an issue, alert the client. Provide a revised timeline, so they can manage expectations within their organization.
- Know your clients’ business and industry vertical or purchase history as well as, if not better than, they do. To do this, ask questions and do the research. Understand how to speak their language.
- Always consider how the team can bring value. Think about how to improve your clients’ experience, help them achieve their goals and increase their ROI. Be a trusted partner and resource.
- Consider your clients’ experience with your organization and how to make things easier for them.
- Strive to exceed client expectations.
- Your client may be one of your agency’s top priorities, but remember they have a full plate too. Be cognizant of what they may be dealing with, have empathy, be patient, and make it easy for them to connect when they’re ready.
- Generate a genuine client-agency relationship; have your team be themselves.
- Take a sincere interest in your clients’ lives, professionally and personally.
- Prioritize trust. Honesty is the best policy.
- Have grace. Although all clients have high expectations (after all they are paying for our services), some clients can be less than understanding and sometimes downright difficult. Take a deep breath, and keep an open mind. Some of the best ideas come about in these moments of peril.
In the book The Art of Client Service, Robert Solomon states, “A relationship is like a Brand: you have to invest in it, and understand that it gets built over time. You can’t rush it; even the slightest hint of insincerity, dishonesty, or manipulation will kill a relationship before it has a chance to develop.”
You never know when a client could become an advocate and provide a recommendation to their friends, family, and business partners for your product or service. On the agency side, I’ve found that clients can become great references, mentors helping you navigate a difficult situation, or simply lifelong friends. If you are lucky, they may one day represent all three.