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The client agency relationship: 8 ways to be a better client

How to be a better client
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This post is by Stephan Argent, CEO of Argedia Group and a member of the Marketing FIRST Forum, the global consulting collective co-founded by TrinityP3

Following an overwhelmingly positive response to our recent post ‘10 ways marketers can improve briefings to their agencies’, we decided that perhaps the best way to kick-off the new year would be to publish a ‘how to’ series of posts that marketers might find helpful as reference points.

So we’re kicking-off the series today with an eyebrow-raising opener ‘How to be a better client’. And even if you are a model client, your agencies love you, the work is outstanding and you’re somehow living a utopian marketing dream – have a read. Because all great clients want ways to constantly improve, right? Right. So here’s our take how all marketers can become better clients:

1. Treat agencies as partners – not vendors

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a ‘vendor‘ as ‘a person who sells things – especially on the street…’ And even if you extrapolate that to mean selling widgets to factories, service partners like agencies don’t sell ‘stuff’ like hotdogs on the street. Agencies aren’t vendors. They’re smart people who help drive your business and should be treated as a valued voice – not hotdog salesmen.

2. Define success

Be clear about what every facet of success looks like for you, your team and your business, write it down and share it with your agencies. If it’s just ‘increased sales’ you’re missing the point. Define a successful outcome for you and how your team would like to work and ladder up to the broader business objectives you’re trying to achieve. The more clarity you can provide around success metrics, the more likely your agencies will be in achieving those goals.

3. Welcome Feedback

Create a mechanism for constructive feedback, listen to it, welcome it and – wherever possible – act on it. If someone is providing you with feedback, chances are it means they care enough to speak up about something that could make life easier and better than it is today – perhaps even avert problems you’re not aware of.

4. Say ‘thank you’

When I started this business, I just about fell over when clients called or dropped me a note to say ‘thank you’. I’d come from an environment that rarely ever said ‘thank you’ and it wasn’t until I started hearing it, that I realized how much a thank you really means. A well-placed thank you can go a long way to helping client-agency relationships, motivating teams and being remembered the next time you need a favour.

5. Don’t be a jerk

Just as a ‘thank you’ can go a long way – so can being a jerk. We’re all under pressure, goals are aggressive, timelines are tight and budgets tighter than they ever were. But that’s no excuse for being a jerk – even when things go wrong.

6. Make yourself available

The reason most of us have jobs is because somebody needs us for something they can’t do themselves. On that basis alone, your input and insight is going to be helpful. So even if your schedule is packed from 8 to 6 five days a week, you need to make time to meet and talk with your agencies on a regular basis.

7. Create fair terms

Everyone deserves to make a fair profit for what they do and your agencies are no exception. Squeezing the life out of an agency agreement will ultimately come back to haunt you if the terms are unreasonable. Whether it’s the price you pay, the payment terms you set or other conditions that are favourable to you – make sure your contracts provide value for both you and your agencies.

8. Be honest about what you don’t know

Yes, it can be embarrassing when someone half your age has to coach you through something you’re not familiar with. And if you’ve not been there yet, get ready – you’re either a complete genius or you’re missing something (and it might be important). The marketer’s world has never been more reliant on technology than it is today – and nobody can be expected to know it all. (And that’s OK).

These are just some of the ‘wish-list’ items we’ve heard from agencies about some of their clients. What rings true for you? How could you be a better client and create stronger agency relationships?

Stephan Argent is CEO of The Argedia Group, Canada’s leading agency search and management consultancy.

Photo: Toni Blay

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