A new report from the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Marketing) and Hall & Partners, “From Mad Men to Sad Men”, now reveals that the challenge to build and maintain a positive and flourishing collaboration between agency and client is more difficult than ever before.
With that in mind, it seems relevant to re-share Jonas’ thoughts on the subject, and reflect a bit on what we, whether agency or client side, can do to strengthen relationships and focus on creating brilliant work that delivers great results.
It’s 2015 and the world has become more transparent than ever – this is also a universal truth when it comes to the future of great client-agency relationships.
Without being transparent in how you do business, you won’t be able to be honest about your demands and deliveries, and thus push each other’s boundaries, which is absolutely key to building a strong and productive relationship. When you start building new relations hang on to the thought that both parties want you to be successful. If you’re not, you won’t be able to create dents in the universe together.
We have been working with social media since 2008, which means that for many of our clients we have entered unknown territory together. When exploring new opportunities, with no best practices or well-documented approaches established, clients understandably need to trust you, and it becomes vital for both parties to always stay aligned in regard to expectations.
As an agency you don’t have to push the limits of your clients every day and all the time, but when you ask them to take a leap of faith, do it with eyes wide open and with all the calculated risks on the table. Most clients are prepared to take risks, they just want to know which, and be able to take the possible implications into consideration.
Working with social media involves handing over some control to the users and to us as an agency. Some would say that the loss of control is inevitable, but don’t lose sight of the state the client is in and the objectives you have agreed to – if you acknowledge where the client is coming from and where they are today, they will trust your guidance and let you be part of their future.
We believe that great content can come from any of our clients’ stakeholders. That belief presents a challenge for us, as we need to work closely with the entire team of appointed agencies without increasing the complexity for the clients. The clients demand daily collaboration and expect everyday operations to run smoothly.
To meet this challenge we started thinking about our client-agency relationship from a holistic perspective: What if we could be the solution by creating an editorial structure that de-complicates the task of managing social brand channels with multiple client stakeholders?
The greatest thing about this holistic approach and our implemented processes is not only being more successful in meeting the demands of our clients, but in our journey we have become much more efficient from an internal perspective, giving us a competitive advantage. Our learning is that when evaluating all our processes the key is well-documented structures but at the same time keeping it simple.
And please… Stick with the right stuff
As social media has moved up the brand strategy funnel over the years, we experience an increasing number of requests to take on tasks outside of our specialty, something that might seem very tempting.
Agencies can pitch to take over more and more duties within different disciplines, but if you’re a niche agency such as ours, you’ll come out better and stronger if you know when to withdraw from tasks too far away from your core competences. From a client perspective you might ask a separate appointed agency to do extra tasks to avoid adding another agency to your list, but then you risk not getting the level of expertise the task actually requires.
As an agency you risk either having a disappointed client, loosing the relationship to the client’s other agencies or ending up with a satisfied client but an unhappy accountant. As Seth Godin says “Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other.”
Which key factors have you found crucial for building a valuable client-agency relationship?