Just like a marriage, the full-service marketing agency-client relationship is a two-way street that requires trust, honesty, understanding, transparency, and mutual respect. And, once the ink dries on the contract, both parties are in it for “life,” or at least the life of the contract.
Unfortunately, many business relationships last about as long as a Hollywood wedding. HubSpot noted that business relationships back in 1984 continued an average of 7.2 years then dropped to 5.3 years by 1997. Recent research by R3, a blockchain FinTech company, revealed that the current advertising agency-client relationship lasts an average of only 3.2 years.
What can we do to make the agency-client relationship last longer? There are three principles that contribute to a healthy relationship, and each party must do their part to make it work.
1. Clarity of Communication
Clear communications between companies, departments, and individuals are vital to the success of long-term goals. For collaboration to work, there must be a communication structure, and each company must adhere to it. Using a single point of contact on each side, if possible, reduces communication errors. All internal communications funnel through the contact person or persons reducing chaos.
The Agency Side - For agencies, the account manager is typically the person who gathers information and feedback from the client. It’s the account manager’s responsibility to see that the information gets to the right party and department. They are also responsible for sending accurate information to the client.
The Client-Side - The project manager is the point of contact. His or her role is to receive direction from the various stakeholders and present it to the ad agency. It is a key role because it focuses differing opinions into one unified track. Avoid bombarding the marketing company’s creative team with opposing directions. Otherwise, they end up guessing who has more authority and which path to take.
Clear communication begins with defining specific goals, expectations, and accountability.
2. Trust Each Other
Trust, honesty, and commitment are vital ingredients to the success of any campaign and relationship. Honest feedback builds trust and is essential for both parties to show they are striving to meet expectations. Each party must have confidence in the other’s ability.
The Agency Side – Trust building begins with a deep understanding of the client, their products, and the people with whom they will work regularly. Knowing the client and the contacts on a personal level will help during times if the campaigns don’t go as planned. Providing updates on a schedule also helps to overcome any unforeseen business issues.
Getting to know clients and their likes and dislikes are fundamental to building relationships.J.G. Barnes, Author of Secrets of Customer Relationship Management: It’s all about how you make them feel.
The Client-Side - Agencies are not employees or there to do your bidding. They are there to make you money as a partner. The creative team requires all the necessary details about your company, the product, people, and corporate culture.
Provide the advertising agency a well-written brief that details everything you want and expect. Defining the precise purpose of advertising will motivate creative people to do their best work.
The client is not always rightEnzo Ferrari
3. Trust the Process
A recent research paper on agency-client relationships defined four stages of the association. They are inception, development, maintenance, and dissolution. Throughout this dynamic relationship cycle, human relationships were the most critical factor. This partnership includes the level of trust, respect, rapport, and comfort between the departments of a full-service marketing company and the client's personnel.
The Agency Side - Let the client know what the process is and how long it takes. Adhere to regularly scheduled update reports and use metrics that highlight progress regarding the client’s goals.
The advertising agency must deliver on time. Celebrate with your client and keep them excited when you reach their goals.
The Client-Side - Understandably, it can be frustrating to pay for an extensive campaign and not see any progress for weeks. Set milestones and specific goals so that the advertising company can provide you with realistic expectations. Provide them with the time they need for a campaign to succeed. Let the marketing agency come up with a solution.
Three Benefits of a Long-Term Agency/Client Relationship
Keeping a relationship going is in everyone’s interest. Here are three primary reasons to make it work for either company.
Nurturing relationships means increased loyalty to both brands. It encourages better performance, trust, and continued business.
2. Reduced Cost of Marketing
From a marketing agency perspective, they don’t need to market as much or as often if they have a stable client base.
When clients have an established advertising agency, they don’t have to start from scratch. The advertising agency will have most of the product information, reducing the cost and time to launch each new campaign.
3. Networking and Testimonials
Each company can become a brand advocate for the other. Long-term relationships increase the networking opportunities that each company can provide the other, along with valuable testimonials.
For an effective and sustainable relationship, it requires collaboration and clear communication from both sides.
Clear Expectations Remove Doubts
When everyone has the same game plan and all the details upfront, it removes doubts. Both parties know what each expects of the other. Some points to consider are:
- Fair remuneration – It must be fair to both parties, aligning with the agency's goals while meeting the client’s objectives. Agreeing to an equitable arrangement builds trust.
- Evaluation method – Both parties should agree on the metrics of every campaign. The goal is to increase accountability and the performance of the campaigns.
- Establish and follow proper communication channels – Ensure that honest feedback flows through appropriate channels.
- Simplify the approval process – Complexity in the approval hierarchy delays the process. Set up a style guide for content or ads and let everyone involved know who is responsible for approvals.
What matters to clients is the marketing agency is an expert in the areas that the client needs. It is up to the marketing agency to prove that they are indeed the experts using proof of data-driven results. Marketing companies need to clearly understand the client, their needs and create a successful marketing plan.
Clients need to outline the deliverable and allow flexibility for the marketers to do their job while maintaining control. Both sides need to understand the process and work together toward a mutual goal.