To start, let’s go ahead and establish that I am not a relationship expert. Shocking information, I’m sure. However, I have made a nearly 10-year career out of working hand-in-hand with client partners across multiple public relations and digital marketing agencies. In those years I’ve seen the great and the not-so-great when it comes to working with clients and brands. Like all relationships, this is a two-way street, so here are five tips from the agency side of the street to help maintain strong, fruitful client partnerships.
1. Set Expectations
What are the overall goals for the work / project? Who are the points of contact? What are we trying to achieve? What communications funnel is best?
These are all key questions to setting up a baseline for a relationship in which everyone is functioning on the same page. Do we want to communicate client to agency and vice versa via email, Slack, Trello, Basecamp or any other platform to streamline comms? Everyone has a different preference, so find what works best for your needs and set the expectation accordingly for frequency of communicating (i.e., daily, weekly, monthly).
If you know what your client partner is expecting, across all avenues, you will always have your deliverables top-of-mind and set yourself up, and the team, for success.
2. Report Regularly
It’s so crucial to show value to your clients for the work you’re creating and executing. Show them the return on their investment regularly. Whether it’s a weekly status, bi-weekly or monthly report, help foster an environment of learning and sharing as part of your client-agency relationship. Showcase wins and toot your horn in a professional way, but also be comfortable sharing room for improvement and recommendations to achieve success.
3. Don’t Underestimate Face Time
Not FaceTime the app, but actual face-to-face interaction. Remember that? It’s so easy to get lost in the aforementioned communications funnel in a digital world, but there’s an art to finding the balance between digital communication with clients (hey, it helps us move quickly!) and in-person interaction (which takes extra effort, but is worth it!). At the end of the day, the latter can be invaluable.
There’s nothing like old school, in-person meetings to help you: stay top-of-mind with your client, potentially identify new business opportunities just by being present and having meaningful, impactful conversations face-to-face instead of through a long email thread.
4. Gut Checks
Yes, this is a weird phrase, but I like it. What is your gut telling you about your relationship with your client? Flip that on its head, what is your client’s gut telling them about you / your agency? If you’re doing the other tips mentioned above, then you should feel comfortable having a pit stop at least once a year to have a gut check moment with your client. If you want a more formal phrasing, an account review. I’m bullish on these for a number of reasons, but mostly because everyone comes away knowing exactly where they stand on the two-way street of the client-agency relationship and if you’re doing it right, you have action items.
It’s all about improving and doing the highest-quality work. Whether it’s a one-off project or an account review with a retainer client, have the formal discussion (documented) around:
- KPIs (Have they been met? If not, why?)
- Next steps
5. Be A Human
What an easy concept! Treat your clients the way you would like to be treated. In an industry where we are moving very quickly on work items, traveling together on business and generally speaking to clients more than we do our closest friends, it’s normal to learn about each other. What common interests do you have? What things, besides work, are your clients passionate about?
Nothing makes a weekly status call or in-person meeting more enjoyable than having a productive work conversation and also chatting about your favorite football team or a band you and your client both enjoy. It’s perfectly acceptable to treat each other like human beings, step out of the constant work jargon, and form a well-rounded client-agency relationship. Hopefully, that can only help you communicate better with one another and do what’s best to reach business goals.