The Insights Blog

Mastering Client/Agency Relationships

Mastering Client/Agency Relationships


The strength and transparency of your relationships with agencies can significantly affect the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall quality of your deliverables. In today’s intricate business landscape, where collaboration often spans across multiple partners, the ability to foster strong and transparent relationships is paramount. The success of any project, campaign, or initiative hinges not only on the individual capabilities of your marketing team and agencies but also on the seamless interplay of these entities.

A cohesive and harmonious network of relationships ensures that everyone involved is on the same page, working towards common goals, and aligning their efforts for optimal outcomes. It’s a dynamic ecosystem where the exchange of ideas, feedback, and expertise is the lifeblood, and where trust and mutual understanding form the pillars of success. Therefore, it’s imperative to invest in cultivating these relationships, as they can truly be the linchpin for achieving excellence in your deliverables.

What are the keys to cultivating such successful relationships?

We have identified the following key approaches that help clients create masterful agency relationships:
  1. Define Clear Objectives: Before engaging with an agency, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your business goals and objectives. What are you trying to achieve? What key performance indicators (KPIs) matter most to you? By defining these objectives, you provide your agency partners with a solid foundation upon which to build their strategies. This clarity helps avoid misalignment and sets the stage for a successful collaboration.

  2. Effective Communication: Open and transparent communication is the cornerstone of a successful agency-client relationship. Clearly convey your expectations, feedback, and timelines. Regular check-ins and reporting should be part of the process to ensure everyone is on the same page. Encourage a two-way dialogue to foster creativity and collaboration.

  3. Establish a Culture of Trust: Agencies are hired for their expertise, so, how can you get to a place where you trust their recommendations? While it’s essential to provide guidance and feedback, micromanaging can hinder their ability to deliver their best work. Let them use their creativity and knowledge to devise effective strategies. Be sure discussion and feedback is handled in the most constructive way possible.

  4. Set Realistic Budgets:To receive fair support, it’s essential to allocate realistic budgets for your projects or campaigns. Underfunding can lead to subpar results, while overfunding can lead to wasted resources. Collaborate with your agency to determine the optimal budget based on your objectives and industry benchmarks.

  5. Evaluate Performance Against Mutually Agreed Upon KPIs: To ensure fair and competitive support, establish clear performance metrics with your agency, and then regularly evaluate the agency’s performance against these benchmarks. Use data and analytics to assess the impact of their efforts and make data-driven decisions.

  6. Foster a Long-Term Relationship: Building strong, long-term relationships with your agencies can be highly beneficial. Agencies that understand your brand, audience, competition, and objectives intimately can deliver more tailored and effective solutions over time. Frequent agency turnover can disrupt continuity and hinder progress.

  7. Keep Strategy Fresh: Stay informed about industry trends and competitive landscapes. Encourage your agency to conduct regular benchmarking and competitive analysis to ensure that your strategies remain relevant and competitive in the market.

  8. Legal and Contractual Clarity: Draft comprehensive contracts that outline expectations, deliverables, payment terms, and termination clauses. A well-defined contract helps prevent misunderstandings and protects both parties.

  9. Keep the Relationship Fresh: Maintaining the vibrancy of your agency relationships is essential for long-term success. Just like any relationship, complacency can lead to stagnation. To avoid this, schedule regular check-ins and evaluations, even when things seem to be running smoothly. These moments allow you to identify potential issues early, adapt to changing circumstances, and explore new opportunities together.

    As you navigate the intricate terrain of agency relationships, remember that your success hinges on your ability to cultivate a partnership that is not just fair but strategically improves your business. It’s not merely about what you receive from your agencies; it’s about the collaborative journey toward achieving your business objectives. Armed with the knowledge and strategies outlined here, you’re well-prepared to embark on this path, turning agency partnerships into a powerful asset for growth and success.

Robin Boehler is a co-founder of Mercer Island Group. Robin has managed hundreds of agency searches and relationships for businesses of all sizes and types, like Ahold Delhaize USA, Starbucks, Moose Toys, Belk, PetSmart, Seabourn, Checkers, Rally’s, Sargento, Ulta Beauty and dozens of other blue-chip firms. She also has consulted to a wide array of agencies including Digitas, New Engen, Curious Jane, The Variable, W&K, GS&P, Havas, Cactus, DNA and many others. Robin’s unique ability to work with teams and help improve organizational productivity is the direct result of an eclectic background including her degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University. Robin is a frequent speaker, having presented and keynoted at events sponsored by the BMA, the 4As, AMI and others.