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July 28, 2017
Four Critical Aspects of a Successful Client/Agency Relationship
Over the last 18 years of being a marketing professional (mainly on the agency side), I have experienced some amazing working relationships with clients. Not only did these great interactions build the clients’ businesses, but they also made the agencies better. A client/agency relationship is like a marriage in that each individual party flourishes when the connection between the two parties is healthy and strong.

So what does a great partnership between a business and marketing firm look like? I believe there are four key relational aspects that make for more fruitful exchanges and, therefore, lead to more success.
  1. Respect Each Other’s Work Style. Everyone has previous experience working with people or companies that have similar styles and knows that it makes work more enjoyable when this happens. Communicating via methods to which the other responds well, accomplishing tasks at the same pace, having comparable beliefs and philosophies and even complementary interests and personalities make for more productive professional relationships.
  2. Value One Another’s Expertise. It can be difficult to work with someone that thinks they know more than you do, or believes they can do your job. On the other hand, it is extremely rewarding to work with someone that respects your opinions and particular expertise. A good agency doesn’t think it knows more about the client’s business than the client, and a good client values the skills and experience of the agency. Having mutual respect for the other party’s proficiencies makes for solid collaboration and/or compromise.
  3. Able to be Frank and Direct. In my opinion, there is nothing worse in business than not speaking the truth or not sharing your true thoughts or feelings. Marketing and advertising often include subjective topics, so opinions will differ. It is beneficial for clients and agencies to have healthy debates with one another because it will likely only make the ideas better. Disagreements don’t need to be destructive in nature. Although it may be tough to share a negative opinion or feedback, it can be delivered in a positive and constructive way. Good things happen when each side isn’t afraid to be honest with the other.
  4. Show Appreciation for a Good Partnership. Showing genuine appreciation for each other is a critical piece of any relationship. Agencies should continuously thank clients for their business and putting their trust in the firm. It’s difficult for a client to invest a hefty portion of its budget into a marketing firm, especially if there was a prior bad experience. Consequently, the agency should keep this in mind and regularly express their gratefulness. On the other side of the table, agencies also like to hear clients say “Thank You” and “Great Job” every once in a while.
These four elements of a good client/agency relationship may seem obvious to many, but I find it helpful to be reminded of the fundamentals. Whether you’re on the client or agency side, take a minute to consider how you fare on each of these items, then make adjustments as necessary. Maybe you should share this article with your agency or client and have a candid discussion about your professional partnership. After all, open and honest communication can only make for a better connection between the two parties.

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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