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The Secret to a Healthy Client-Agency Relationship

Marketing Outsourcing


When it comes to maximizing the ROI from your marketing agency, it pays to have a good client-agency relationship. It makes everything easier: your agency is inspired to do above and beyond for your brand, you’re more willing to share crucial information to help in your agency’s campaigns, and everyone is happy. Win-win.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it often works in the real world. Today, most companies and agencies are plagued with issues that can make either party pull their hair out in frustration.

So Why Do Client-Agency Relationships Fail?

1. Misaligned priorities

Success is a goal that all of us are trying to achieve. But, when your idea of success doesn’t match your client’s or your agency’s, that’s when things start to fall apart.

For example, say your agency thinks they did a great job with their most recent digital campaign by boosting your brand awareness. However, you’re interested in more sales and found out their campaign didn’t do much when you looked at the conversion data. For you, it is money spent without getting the results you wanted so now you think they did a poor job.

2. Blame throwing

I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s worked in the marketing industry has witnessed this scenario. In the example above, it is likely that Client A would blame Agency B for not producing great results; Agency B, of course, strikes back, blaming Client A for not being clear about which metrics to focus on.

This is so common in the world of marketing and advertising nowadays such that it has almost become the norm. The weird thing is that this is usually the result of misaligned objectives and can be avoided by clear goal-setting during the onboarding process. Don’t fall into the trap!

3. Short lifespan of client-agency relationships

It doesn’t take a PhD to see that the best performing agencies are those that have long-standing relationships with their clients. Just take a look at this list of client-agency partnerships that have lasted as long as a century, and you’ll see what I mean.

Unfortunately, current statistics reveal a backward trend. A blog post by Mosquito stated that average lifespan of a client-agency relationship in 2015 is less than 3 years. Compare that to 1984, when the average client-agency tenure was 7.2 years, and you know there’s something wrong with how we do business nowadays.

So, how can you turn this around?

3 Secrets to a Healthy Client-Agency Relationship

Secret #1: Don’t hide secrets.





No, this isn’t about indiscriminately revealing all information about the company. It’s about respecting the value of transparency when dealing with your agency or client.

Clients and agencies are working through a partnership—a relationship, and because of that, the element of trust is imperative. In fact, in a survey on “The Naked Truth” of client-agency relationships, trust came out to be the one defining factor that had the biggest effect on how well clients and agencies handled their relationships.

Whether you’re on the client or agency side, make transparency your foundation when dealing with the other party. It doesn’t matter if you mess up or miss a deadline. Just be upfront about it and take responsibility for the mistake. Don’t wait until the last minute before informing the other party of any issues on your end, the damage could have already been done by then.

Secret #2: Work with, not for, the client.

Work with, not for your client




One of the easiest ways to achieve transparency is to establish the collaboration mindset—that the agency is working with, not for, your company.

As Adweek states, the relationship between client and agency is “symbiotic.” In this case, when the client doesn’t hold back information for its own purposes and treats the agency like a human being with feelings, it helps them come up with more successful campaigns that translate to better business results.

On the other hand, when agencies establish honest and fair practices, they build a sense of trust and remove the tension of collaborating on a project. This results in more creative and successful campaigns, which look good for the agency’s portfolio. Win-win.

Secret #3: Don’t hide behind technology.

Don't hide behind technology




With today’s technology, most of us just skip the hassle of meeting face-to-face and opt for easy “hacks” like chat/messaging apps. The thing is, companies and agencies are both run by people. So if your goal is to establish a healthy client-agency relationship, you’ll need to keep things “human”.

Unlike virtual communication, face to face integrates “multimodal sensory information”, such as non-verbal cues (expressions, gestures, body language). Face to face also involves more continuous turn-taking, which is shown to have a profound effect on the involvement of a person in the communication.

These characteristics of face to face communication inherently increase the quality of the conversation and make it more efficient for all parties involved. Not to mention the fact that 95% of businesses say that face to face meetings are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships.

So try to set up a face to face meeting once a week. Industry professionals like Mette Davis agree that spending time with each other help agencies and their clients reassess their goals and determine where to focus their efforts to achieve maximum ROI.

Key Takeaways

Healthy client-agency relationships are at the core of any successful partnership. Just like any relationship, there will be problems and challenges that will test the character of both parties. In the end, the best relationships are those that are built on trust, respect, a sense of openness, and willingness to work together.

If you’re lucky enough to find a client/agency that doesn’t make you want to repeatedly bang your head against the wall, then you might have just found your partner for life!

Find out how you can find that coveted unicorn with our Guide to Hiring a Killer Marketing Agency!

Guide to Hiring a Killer Marketing Agency