5 tips to achieve the best client and creative agency relationship

How do you get to that holy grail of a dynamic where you’re getting the most out of your creative agency, producing your best work and optimising your marketing spend? If you’re feeling like it can be a difficult balance to strike, don’t despair, during our 40 years of experience, we’ve found there are some very simple tactics you can employ to ensure a stronger client/agency relationship.

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1. Meet the team you’ll be working with day-to-day.

From the very start, that is. So often, agencies (and some clients) operate on a ‘new business development’ model – where the team that makes the initial introductions acts purely as a scoping or onboarding team, and you don’t get to meet the people you’ll be working with on a daily basis. It can be hard to gauge chemistry this way, and particularly when wanting to forge long-lasting relationships, it’s key to know upfront that you have the team with the right skills and experience (and personality) working alongside you.

We’ve always found the direct approach of getting the right team in place to be the most fruitful for both client and agency. Yes, someone else may make the first phone call or host the first virtual meeting. But very soon after finding out the requirements, a team is assembled with the right expertise to deliver the best quality of service, and they’re introduced at the earliest possibility. Those initial meetings can contain such valuable information about how you as a new client and business want to work, missing that with the key agency team can hamper the pivotal onboarding process for all.

2. Provide as much research and insight.

This goes both ways. It’s crucial to the success of each project that a client provides as much market research and insight as possible into their audiences, markets, product or service. Asking an agency to go into a brief completely blind to this context will certainly diminish results, and often lead to creative missing the mark or going down a completely wrong route – an inefficient use of your budget and time.

In the same breath, agencies should also share research and insight with you the client, as it can often provide an alternative perspective, and help you to break out of your usual pattern and explore alternative routes forward.

3. Be clear on objectives and outcomes.

Communicating clearly and openly will benefit everyone from the start. Without a clear steer on goals, neither you nor your agency can work towards the optimum solution. Establish desired outcomes for your audiences, think about reach, if and how you plan to build momentum (will this phase of work inform future work or is it standalone). Outline any specific behaviour you want to result from the campaign or project, and if possible, set measurable targets. This will focus the team and ensure the approach is as effective as possible.

4. Make it a partnership, not just transactional.

Collaboration is key. Respecting the strengths of both client and agency, and acknowledging that both have equally important and defined roles to play means you’ll get the best out of the relationship. In our experience this approach creates the best relationships and ultimately delivers the best, consistent quality results.

5. Share the results.

The outcomes of any branding project or marketing campaign can take many forms, and it’s vital to future learnings and improvements to share as much information as possible on the level of success (however big or small) of a project. This applies if it’s the remit of the client or the agency to report on results. These can be obvious statistical results – uplift, percentage shift or an increase in sales figures. But don’t ignore the intangible, particularly when it comes to branding projects – changes in perception, the quality of engagement (not just increases) and reputational change are harder to measure, but if captured, can shine light on the true success of a campaign, and the possible need to refine your approach in other areas in the future.

In conclusion

It’s very easy for barriers to be put in place between a client and agency, which can damage the output and results. And with budgets needing to work harder in a more competitive landscape, it’s more important than ever to get the relationship right. In an ideal world, a client wants their agency to feel like an extension of their internal team, and so do we. That way, conversations can happen fluidly, and the creative process will be a lot more effective.