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The five rules of successful client-agency relationships

By Steve Antoniewicz, director

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Opinion article

June 14, 2017 | 5 min read

Most clients want to find ‘the one’ - an agency their brand can form an enduring relationship with. But as we know all too well, this can be difficult to sustain in practice. In 2017, R3 put the average client-agency relationship length at 3.2 years.

agency client relationships image

What are the secrets of a successful agency-client relationship?

Steve Antoniewicz, as director of The Drum’s consulting division, has ten years’ experience of helping clients find, choose and manage their agency relationships using The Drum's Recommended Agency Register. Here he offers five pieces of advice to brands on building a strong relationship from the moment the ink dries on the contract:

One: You get what you give

Invest your time in the relationship. Client and agency need to become a team to deliver great work and that only happens if each party invests in that goal. Give the agency as much access to you and your business as you can in the early, discovery phase of the relationship. Go and see your agency team face to face, spend time with them, understand what they have to do to deliver for you, and help them understand what your business expects from them and from you.

Two: Little details have a big impact

Often, it’s the small stuff that places pressure on these relationships - poor attention to detail, poor communication, turning up late and running over time/budget are all very basic but incredibly common frustrations. You can help the agency by being clear from the start about what your expectations are. What’s a red flag and what’s not.

Set clear expectations and shared goals. Both sides should agree some simple measurable and realistic objectives, it need not be a long list that dissipates focus.

Three: Honesty is the best policy

"Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones."

We’ll forget about whether John Lennon said those words or not, but there’s no doubt that you and your agency will get on better and build trust quicker, if you are open and honest with each other from the outset. Don’t let problems fester. If you feel the agency is underperforming then say so, and accept honesty in return from your agency. If you are honest with yourself, are you the best client you can be? Are you giving them the best opportunity to succeed?

Four: Expect some friction

Doing great things is not usually that easy. You should expect some bumps in the road and to be challenged. As the client, you’ll know more about your brand, your market and channels than the agency, but the agency should know more about how to best to market and engage with your customers. Be open to challenge, good agencies will have a view worth listening to about your business, markets, products. They’ll also realise that you have valid opinions about creativity and work.

Five: Don’t fear change

Not much stands still these days in marketing - budgets change, plans change, channels change, ownership changes even the people change. Change in fact is the only one constant. In amongst all that flux it can be hard to stay focused on the job in hand. But surely the constant innovation in marketing, tech and communication is what makes our industry the most dynamic and exciting to work in. Embrace it.

Recommended Agency Register (RAR) is The Drum’s service to help brands find the right agency partners, based on a unique ratings system. These ratings influence the one of a kind RAR awards which involve no entries to submit or papers to write. Winning can only be achieve through the high regard of clients on the platform.

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