How to make an agency-client relationship work.

We all know good relationships are important – in your personal life and in your business life. And sometimes it seems like working together can be even more challenging than living together. Not getting what you’re looking for from your agency-client relationship? Yes, it might be them, but it might be you, too.

You pay your agency to do great work, but just as with a partner or spouse, it takes effort from both sides of a relationship to produce great results. Agencies need good clients – not necessarily nice clients, but good clients. Think you’re a good client? Let’s find out.

Issue 1: My agency is just not creative (anymore).

Do you have an agency that used to be creative but now isn’t? Agency burnout is common. And just like it is with your spouse, it’s easier to re-motivate a good one than go shopping for a new one. Here’s a few ways to re-engage your agency:

  • Have a heart-to-heart with the principals. They want to keep your business. They want to do great work. If things aren’t “up to snuff,” the best thing you can do is have the hard conversation. It’s worth it for everyone. Most agencies will appreciate it, and respond with changes. And if yours doesn’t, it at least had fair warning.
  • Plan an off-site. The agency should lead this, but it will need direction from you on what you want to accomplish. It will also need to feel your support. Make sure it’s not just your agency’s account people who attend, but also the graphic designers and copywriters who work on your projects. Think about including ethnographic activities, consumer research or other information that might spark the people with your agency to think about things differently.

But if your problem is that your agency is just not delivering what you need … at all … ever, then here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • How are you directing your agency’s work? Are you sharing the big picture and letting your agency solve the problem, or are you just telling them exactly what you want done? Just like your agency can not do your job, you probably can’t do its job either. Resist the urge to overdirect.
  • What’s your feedback style? Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like something, but say it in a productive fashion. You don’t have to be a jerk, but nice clients are not necessarily good clients. Tie your feedback to your original direction or objectives. Ask questions back to the agency – it will figure out where it missed the mark.
  • Is your agency your partner or your supplier? Great work comes from agencies that receive information, inclusion and respect as part of your team. Just like your other employees, the people at your agency thrive on ownership. Once you settle on an agency, go all in. Don’t subject it to the constant threat of competitive bids; you’ll only create a poor environment for the creative process.

Issue 2: My agency makes a lot of mistakes.

Most people don’t like to make mistakes. Mistakes are embarrassing. And for an advertising agency, they’re life-threatening. If your agency is prone to this, ask yourself:

  • How am I communicating with them? If you send revisions in the form of multiple emails, you’ll increase the risk of something getting missed. And if you’re a “copy all” kind of person in a “reply all” kind of organization – stop. Gather information or feedback from your whole team, then relay that to your agency in a single email. Don’t ask your agency to sort through all the opinions on your end.
  • Who am I communicating with? Sometimes clients give some information to one person at the agency, but call a different person for something else. Talk to the same person on the project for EVERYTHING. If that person is not capable of being the project lead, then ask for someone who is.

Issue 3: Your agency’s work is always late.

Yes, creative people often wait until the last minute. It’s just how they roll. While you might not be able to do much about your agency’s culture, you can make this easier on yourself.

Need something for a meeting on Friday? Tell your account rep that your meeting is on Wednesday. Then you’ll have it in time to prepare, and even to tweak your agency’s work if needed.

And don’t wait until the last minute to make a request or provide feedback either. Good creative work takes time to deliver. Don’t rush the creative process – you will pay for it in the end. Once you’ve got a project started, try to be responsive so they can keep the creative momentum going.

The relationship between client and agency is the single-most important factor in achieving great creative work. Be challenging. Be responsive. Be clear. Be honest. Be encouraging. And then sit back and be prepared to be wowed.

At Vela, we’re all about great relationships. Contact us today learn more about the services we offer, and how we can help your business grow.