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Four tips on building more effective client-agency relationships

Four tips on building more effective client-agency relationships

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The advertising business is a people business. Partnership and respect is the crux of this incredibly important, sometime volatile and often emotionally charged relationship. Smart clients and agencies keep communication lines open and clear while working consistently to keep the relationship on track. Strong partnerships between clients and their agencies produce the best work and lead to better business results. These partnerships last longer and better serve both parties.

We’re lucky to have worked with hundreds of clients and their agencies, and we have observed four key areas that can lead to more effective relationships.


Strong clients and agencies focus their best practices around working with people – this is a people business.

The client/agency relationship can be highly volatile and emotionally charged. As such, best clients remember to keep open communication with their agency partners and with each other. Success is defined at the beginning of the relationship/project and good clients have the patience to wait and work towards success with their agency.


In addition, both the client and the agency must understand each other’s culture and be prepared for interactions that may be influenced by the cultures. Smart clients check the pulse of the relationship often. Indifference on the part of either party is costly and best clients realize that longevity is essential to adding value to the investment in the relationship.

Trust is the foundation of lucrative client/agency relationships.

Successful clients and agencies strive to build trust with their partners. Higher levels of trust at the end of the day will lead to better work and higher efficiency. Trust needs to be nurtured. It is important for the client and agency to see each other as people and understand each other as best they can. More human interactions help build fondness for each other and commitment to each other as individuals separate from the work. These are business and personal relationships. The more collaborative and synergistic the relationship, the better the advertising will be.

Both the client and the agency must be strong partners.

Great client partners maintain a philosophical alignment and speak with ONE voice. Both client and agency should manage with consistency and develop clear roles and checkpoints. Additionally, great client partners excel in clear communications and set transparent expectations that lead to effective processes stemming from an agreed-upon strategy. Strong agency partners should always strive to exceed expectations.

Both parties must innovate to remain effective as partners and to ensure long-term success.

The marketing services world is certainly changing quickly. Clients and agencies can’t change the way they operate overnight, but they can certainly change and they can do that together. Leadership, education and experimentation are all critical – all in the service of the true goal of solving clients’ business problems.


Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.