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Food for thought: How to keep a client for 10 years

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Is there a secret ingredient to a long term client and agency relationship?Having celebrated the tenth anniversary of working with restaurant brand Nando’s, Emma Grace - head of creative at lifestyle and entertainment PR agency PrettyGreen - shares her top ten tips when it comes to maintaining a successful relationship.

1. Compatibility

I don’t believe opposites attract when it comes to brands and their agencies. It is really important that you share a similar ethos, spirit and values, otherwise frustrations can happen pretty quickly on both sides.

Nando’s and PrettyGreen started working together at a similar time in our life-cycles - so we have essentially grown up together. When we received our first brief, we were 5 people, Nando’s were 50 restaurants - our small, flexible, nimble, get shit done, culture chimed with the ambitious Nando’s business and team at the time. We both just wanted to do great creative work. The same rings true now, we are both older and wiser, with a few more processes….but we like to think we have the same culture and values at the heart as we both did when we were ‘small'.

2. Personalities

Agency and client relationships boil down to the people. Sometimes people don’t gel, it's human nature - so when they don’t, we try to save everyone the pain quickly and we change up the team. Because when those relationships do work it can be magical and powerful, making for a happier working day. Nando’s culture is all about looking after their people - and they echo this focus and respect with their agencies too.

3. Friction

Can be a good thing - there is nothing like a creative tussle or a strategic disagreement to get the juices flowing. One of PrettyGreen’s and Nando’s similar values is having strong views, softly held. We always listen to all the points of view in a room and try and move forwards towards a halfway happy.

4. Honesty

It hasn’t all been plain sailing - we have definitely have had some choppy waters over the years - but honesty, transparency, serious chats and a genuine intention to want to make the relationship work on both sides has carried us through. We have also always stayed true to our agency exclusivity to restaurants as a sector (no sneaky conflict shops opened here). We have obviously been approached by other dining and grocery brands - but we chat them through with Nando’s, determine the conflict and then decline. We know we have the best brand on the high street already.

5. Listen to your gut

When you have that feeling that your client is not happy. Call it, you're probably right and they aren't happy. We're good at calling it - and Nando's is too.

6. Team work

It sounds trite, but it's true - we are one team, we work from each other's offices, we share resource, we share brain power and most importantly we share the desire to do work we want to tell our mates about.

7. Love PERi-PERi Chicken

Build a team who is the target audience. Insights and creative are all the simpler when you are in effect selling to yourself. We always try and build a team that is sympathetic to the client objective.

8. Test and learn rather than do and blame

Evaluation is crucial - of what did work and what didn’t. Learning from evaluation is obvious, but so often the same mistakes can be made again and again and again.

9. Play nicely

We have worked with lots of other Nando’s agencies over the years and we like to think we play nicely. Fundamentally the clear demarcation of roles from the client is crucial in effective agency working. If all stakeholders stick to what they are good at then no-one will be looking over their shoulder for that pesky lunch stealer (I am talking about you, every ad agency with your PR slides).

10. It's the little things that count

Just like in any relationship, attention to detail is attention to them - and we know how many agencies are flashing their leg at this chicken - so we like to think Esther Peral would be proud.

Emma Grace is head of creative at PrettyGreen

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