The rise of digital and mobile has fundamentally changed agency’s relationships with their clients.
Now, everything from strategy to execution seems to move faster than ever, but with all of these new demands to keep pace with an exponentially growing medium, sometimes the fundamentals of client/agency relationships can get lost. At Xivic, Inc., we strive to always focus on why we’re choosing to be in the client relationships we have, and how to continually improve them.
This often means being able to have “The Talk” about any possible pain points with your clients. It’s not always easy, but with some open, honest communication, you can better solidify your client/agency partnership. Here are five of our tips on what digital agencies need to address with their clients in order to have a healthy relationship.
Pain Point 1: So, Are We Exclusive?
Maybe you were lucky enough that the client was upfront in their intentions, or maybe you know they’re playing the field, but they’ve made it clear they will settle down… for the right agency. Whatever the situation is, you need to get clarity, preferably in advance of any work being done.
Digital agencies face a unique challenge in that they often don’t have a legacy relationship with a client and many brands are still considering their digital needs late in the game, choosing to bring in specialized agencies as ad hoc resources. So, if there are other parties involved, make sure your client is introducing you and setting clear expectations, communication of objectives, assignments and responsibilities. This is no small job, but if done correctly, collaboration and knowledge sharing across the board will enable every agency to deliver the best quality performance possible.
Pain Point 2: Communication Is Key
The only thing worse than having to tell your client at the last minute that you won’t be able to deliver on time is delivering on time and having them declare that you’ve completely missed the mark. Both of these nightmare scenarios could be avoided with plenty of communication and clearly defined deliverables early on.
Sometimes, though, the challenge is on their end — clients who regularly miss or reschedule check-ins or who don’t provide clear feedback. In that case, regularly reminding the client in writing that missing feedback deadlines and missed guidance resulting in delayed result and cause poor quality is the first step in avoiding long-term relationship deterioration. The flip side of this is managing your accessibility with clients. Certainly, as a digital agency, you need to be available to answer questions or address any issues with products, but we can’t return answers as fast as a Google search. By making it clear from the beginning of a relationship who is the point person to contact and what realistic response times are, you can save yourself — and your client — from panicked phone calls when they don’t hear back immediately.
Pain Point 3: Do You Trust Me?
This can be one of the trickiest parts of any working relationship as trust and respect take much longer to build than to lose. Those who trust and respect our role and expertise empower us to do our jobs well — and to make the most of what we’re doing for our clients. Those who don’t… well… we end up in messy situations and unhappy clients.
One of the best ways to build trust is to give clients a reality check when what they’re asking for either isn’t feasible or isn’t right for their brand. When it comes to digital properties, you’re working with people who have different levels of knowledge and awareness. Instead of just taking their money and building another app, give them honest and direct advice on what will really work for their brand. Maybe it’s a far less sexy option than they’d envisioned. Maybe it will cost you the job or money, but in the long run, it will earn you trust.
Pain Point 4: I Need to Tell You Something
No matter how amazing your agency and your staff are, at some point, you are going to screw up. It might not be entirely your fault, but once something has gone wrong, it’s not the time to point fingers or place blame. The first thing to do is to own up to it and contact the client, directly and immediately. Nothing is going to kill that trust you’ve worked so hard to build faster than them realizing your mistake or hearing about it from someone else before you’ve said a word.
When you do reach out to them, either has a solution in place or, if you don’t have one yet, give them a firm timeframe on when you will and stick to it. No matter the circumstances, your client deserves to know the details. By maintaining the transparency in your relationship, you are assuring them that you’re looking out for their best interests first.
Pain Point 5: Are We Right For Each Other?
Sometimes, it’s hard to walk away from what looks like the right partnership on paper, but if it just isn’t the right fit for either of you, it’s better to break it off now, rather than invest your company’s creative resources into something that was never going to last. If your communication keeps failing, no matter how hard you try, they don’t seem to trust you or are vague when you try to talk about future projects, it’s not working.
Another good sign that it’s not the right fit? If the only selling point on the client is the pay. Sure, we’ve all had to take projects in order to pay the bills, but if the relationship is purely transactional, it’s not meant for the long term. After all, when relationships clearly don’t work, it’s best to end it for both parties.
Of course, there are challenges specific to working in any booming sector of the creative industry, but, just like in any relationship, the only way to overcome them and form a strong, lasting bond is to be honest, open and grateful for the wonderful connection you have. And, a little TLC never hurts either.