How to Build a Successful Agency-Client Relationship

Michael Brenner on Jun 3, 2019 in Marketing Strategy

There are many aspects to building a successful agency. Juggling different projects and deadlines, managing multiple teams, and being pro-active with your own marketing efforts are all essential to success. While the work itself is important, it’s also vital to establish strong, positive agency-client relationships

You could be the best agency in the world in terms of results but if your clients find it difficult to work with you, or you don’t align with their philosophy and culture, the working relationship will be doomed to failure. Keep your clients sweet and you’ll reap the rewards – over 50% of digital marketing agencies say their main source of new business is from client referrals!

The key to increasing referrals is working with the right clients in the first place. It shouldn’t always be the case that the client chooses the agency. The agency should also be responsible for making sure the client is a good fit and recognizing when it’s a better business decision to pass on projects. Beyond this, there are a few basic principles to follow to make sure you maintain positive relationships with your current and future clients.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Positive agency-client relationships are the key to business success for both parties.
  • Good communication is vital, as is having clear expectation on both sides.
  • Don’t take your clients for granted and treat each and every client as valuable.

1. Under Promise and Over Deliver

This is certainly not a new concept, and probably advice you’ve heard many times concerning keeping your clients happy. However, few agencies actually stick to these guidelines.

In fact, the opposite is more often true – clients all too often find that their agency promises the world in terms of results and timelines just to secure their business, but in reality, they just can’t keep their promises.

Make sure you’re realistic about what you can achieve. If you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you can pull off a project a week ahead of the deadline, your client will be delighted. On the other hand, if you deliver a week late, you’re risking losing their business.

Along the same lines, it’s always a nice bonus for clients if they get a little extra to what they were expecting. These little extras don’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money, but they show the client that you care about delivering the best possible service.

2. Set Clear Goals and Measure the Success of Every Campaign

Your clients may not necessarily set measurable goals for each project they choose to work with you on, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.

Research by the Content Marketing Institute shows that over 50% of B2B content marketers don’t measure ROI or are unsure if they do or not.

Further to this, only 4% of respondents stated that they were “very proficient” at using metrics to measure the results of their content marketing success.

This is one area where, as an agency, you can and should fill the gap. Setting clear goals for success and presenting the results of campaigns in the form of measurable figures demonstrates that your agency is delivering value. It also sets guideposts for future improvements.

3. Communicate Regularly and Effectively

It’s important for your clients to be kept in the loop of what’s going on with their campaigns. This way, they are actively involved in the process and have the opportunity to ask questions and request changes.

You should make it clear from the start how your clients can contact you and how frequently they should expect to touch base. This might include:

  • Answering emails within a set time
  • Having scheduled weekly phone calls to discuss projects
  • Setting up regular review meetings
  • Sending reports and results of campaigns on a monthly basis.

It’s important that, while your clients should be able to reach you on short notice in an emergency, they must also understand what is an acceptable level of contact.

Tying up your team with unnecessary lengthy meetings on a weekly basis, or expecting an immediate response to non-urgent emails isn’t acceptable and you need to make this clear. When you enter into a new agreement with a client, make sure that they know what level of contact to expect and also what you’ll need from them in order to work effectively.

When you do meet with clients, have a set agenda for what to discuss. This might include measured results and the actual work that your team has completed since the last meeting, as well as a general discussion of how things are going and how you can both make improvements to your working relationship.

Transparency is also key – if things aren’t going so well, don’t gloss over the details. Your client will appreciate the honesty and you can work together to improve processes going forward.

4. Show Appreciation of All Your Clients

As an agency, when your attention and resources are being pulled in many different directions at once, it can be difficult to demonstrate to all your clients just how valuable they are.

This can easily happen for long-term clients, for example. It’s natural to want to focus your efforts into wooing new clients, particularly when you’re working on a new and exciting campaign, but don’t forget that your existing clients are just as important.

It’s also common to spend more time on needy clients or those that are running campaigns with you that aren’t going so well. In the meantime, successful campaigns are left to tick over and non-demanding clients go ignored.

You can reduce the risk of this situation by setting clear expectations from the start (see the above section about communication), but also make sure you give all campaigns the attention and effort they deserve, regardless of how they’re performing.

Make sure to stay in regular contact with all your clients (don’t wait for them to contact you) and make them feel like a VIP. A handwritten thank you note or a small gift can go a long way to making your clients feel valued.

5. Work Together in Partnership

Encourage your clients to see your agency as an extension of their own business, not just as another service provider.

The key to building great relationships and achieving great results is to work together as partners to achieve a common goal. Make sure you take the time to listen to your clients and deliver what they truly need – don’t just tell them what they need. Remember, while you may be the experts on marketing, they know their brand and customers better than you do.

Keep your clients informed and involved with your processes so they can better understand how members of each of your teams can work together. Also, be open to feedback on how you can improve those processes.

As with any relationship, when you’ve been working together for a while it can be easy to become complacent and for progress to stagnate. To avoid this, commit to ongoing innovation through regular brainstorming sessions and sharing of information so you can learn and grow together.

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Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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