How to be a Good Agency… or Client

Great work starts with great relationships – A list of “good agency traits” or what to expect from your agency, and what they expect back!

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As an agency, we understand the importance of customer service, and we strive to go above and beyond in our work for clients.

This means that we always keep an eye out for inspiration for other work we could do to benefit clients, send over snippets of relevant industry information that we think will be useful or interesting to them, and deal with the ‘I know it’s not your job but can you help me with X’ panics whilst trying not to worry about the other work that is piling up at the same time.

But sometimes it’s hard to champion that infectious ‘go get ‘em!’ attitude. So, inspired by our latest company meeting where we had a chat about (amongst other things) how the Americans have customer service nailed, I thought I’d put together a reference list of ‘good agency’ traits.

  • Timeliness – answer emails promptly; if you can’t get to something straight away, let the client know that you’re on it and will get back to them – and give an idea of time frame. This applies to work as well, obviously.
  • Be proactive – this is such an easy thing to overlook, but makes such a difference to the client. Talking to your clients and offering ideas – inside and outside your brief – proves how important they are and that they are in mind for you all the time. You might have lots of clients to look after, but that client may only have one agency.
  • Deliver good work – this should go without saying!
  • Be transparent – let clients know what you’re working on for them and update them on progress. If something isn’t going to plan, let them know. If they ask for advice or work on a project that you just can’t see working, discuss it with them – don’t just go along with it!
  • Communicate – don’t wait until there is a problem with something; pick up the phone and talk to clients. Show genuine interest in how the business is going, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to be ‘human’ and have a bit of banter, if it’s appropriate
  • Have a “yes” attitude. Smile! If you say “yes” nine times out of 10 (and deliver), when you say “no”, your client is far more likely to understand or at least listen to your opinions around why something cannot be done.

And while we’re at it, the agency-client relationship is two-way:

  • Briefing – Clients, be clear on what you want, why you want it, and be sure to communicate all of that with your agency. The better they understand your business and objectives, the stronger the solution will be. In addition, clear briefs that are agreed with all stakeholders and include all the necessary information for the agency are priceless – it’s amazing how many times I have had to ask a client for simple details like budget or a timeline when working on a new project.
  • Respect the agency’s expertise – discussions and ‘brainstorms’ are important, but remember agencies are made up of specialists. Take advantage of this by using it, rather than going on your ‘hunch’.
  • Share – Many years ago I worked with a client that kept all their agencies completely separate. This made things pretty hard when doing anything that might overlap another agency’s turf. The fact is, if agencies are able to communicate and share resources and information, it makes the output stronger and more cohesive. Win-win.
  • Contact – perhaps a press release has to pass through several departments to get approval, which of course takes time, so let your agency know when to expect feedback – sometimes to us it feels like things disappear down a rabbit hole! If we know it won’t come back for three weeks, we won’t pester you for feedback, and we can plan future work delivery appropriately for deadlines.
  • Patience – understand that agencies have their pressures; Your point of contact will have more than one client, and they will have to juggle their time accordingly. Multiple emails about multiple things, for example, are hard to track and take more time to respond to than one email with several points consolidated.
  • Approval – sometimes work gets caught up in doing dozens of tiny amends and tweaks, over several versions. Processes where feedback is given once or twice to get documents to the approval stage are much more efficient and productive. Make sure you have all relevant party’s input before going back to your agency.
  • Timeliness – see above!

I support the notion that ‘great work starts with great relationships’, stated by IPA in an article on Marketing magazine online. Undoubtedly, the most productive partnerships are ones where both parties are dedicated, respect one another and are open with each other – and get along! In the same piece, Libby Child, UK CEO of relationship management company Aprais, asks, (and backs up): “did you know there’s a staggering 99.9% correlation between a good client perform­ance and a good agency performance?” Food for thought.

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