When I worked in an agency, there were always a select few clients that all staff begged to work with. These clients would get the best and brightest that the agency had to offer. Since the agency team was inspired to be their best, these special client agency partnerships usually created the strongest brand campaigns with the best business results. These favourite clients were not necessarily the ones with the biggest budgets nor did they always agree with the agency recommendations.
The favourite clients recognized that their behaviour as clients, had a direct impact on agency performance. I observed 8 common behaviours in great clients. And, when I moved client side, I made sure to adopt these habits.
Here are 8 client habits that help enhance agency performance for better results:
1) Pay your bills on time
If you are noticing that you may be getting less time from the agency staff or projects are beginning to slip, check your payable situation. The last thing you want is the agency feeling resentful because you haven’t paid them for everything they have done for you in the last three months. Make it your mission that the agency gets paid on time.
2) Say Please and Thank You
I know…. I sound like your mother. As business becomes more stressful, it’s amazing how many clients lose sight of the simple courtesies. Agency staff bend over backwards for supportive, respectful clients. And, when you have a reputation for being courteous, it helps enormously when you need to have a difficult conversation with the agency.
3) Open your doors. Be transparent. Commit to ongoing education
Many clients comment on their disappointment with the lack of brand knowledge and strategic insight their agencies are providing to their business. Of course, this is a serious issue in your relationship. It’s important to remember that the agency can’t work in isolation. They need your help to know your brand. How much have you invested in your agency’s on-boarding and training on your brand? Have you supported the agency immersion in your business? Has the agency toured your factories, your stores, your offices? Do you welcome questions about your business and search out the answers to their questions?
4) Give the agency a thorough written brief that empowers great work
Providing a verbal brief, or a top-line summary feels more efficient but wastes a lot of time and frustrates everyone. The process of writing a brief brings extra rigour to the thinking: it helps to clarify the business issues, tests the consistency of the strategic thinking and aligns the decision makers on the brand direction. Fill the brief with what you have learned and what insights you’ve gained, not just data. Ultimately, the brief should be the standard against which all solutions are evaluated to help guard against ongoing subjective requests for revisions. Since human memory is flawed, the team needs a point of reference during the work process to help prevent misunderstandings and mistakes.
Over the years, I have developed a favourite briefing template that gets strong feedback from agencies and clients.
5) Make prompt and final decisions
Endless starts and stops to a project revisiting decisions already made or “waiting for client approval” can be demoralizing and debilitating for the agency team. The project can lose momentum and the team’s passion and attention can wither.
6) Don’t dictate the way to solve creative problems
Most of us are hard wired to come up with solutions to problems as they arise. When evaluating agency recommendations, some clients identify an issue to be solved, and request the solution that the agency should use. The most motivating clients know that their role is to identify and clearly communicate the issue and its impact to the business. They hire the agency to creatively solve the problem and give the team the freedom to do so.
7) Commit to candid feedback, ongoing learning and improvement
The most effective motivator for an agency to continue to drive for improvement, is when the client sets this expectation. For example, when a client commits to giving, and receiving candid feedback it will help the team identify issues early, when they are easiest to solve. The Agency respects a client who asks for feedback. This behaviour strengthens mutual respect and builds trust.
8) Exceed Expectations
Clients often express concern about the quality of project execution by the agency. Missed deadlines and things “slipping through the cracks are classic client frustrations. When promises aren’t kept it can lead to Client Agency relationships eroding very quickly. The great clients set a strong example of always meeting their commitments and deliverables to the agency. The agency team becomes motivated by the client example and works diligently to ensure that they continually deliver to prevent eroding client trust. I advise clients to ask for candid agency feedback on how well the client delivers on commitments. Sometimes there can be some real surprises.
Good business habits are the basis for a strong client agency relationship. A focussed agency briefing document, rich with learning and insight becomes the project contract between you and the agency provides a great start for your relationship.
If you’d like a free copy of an effective agency briefing template that I use, go to my website kfitzwilliamconsulting.com and I’ll send it to you.
Kathryn Fitzwilliam leverages her agency and marketing experience to help clients manage their agency relationships for better results. www.kfitzwilliamconsulting.com