The agency-client relationship hails from an antiquated agency model — a model that stressed long-term goals and client partnerships that would stretch out for a number of years. This is no longer the industry. Today’s agency works under hard deadlines and produces quick turnaround requests. 

Fast-paced by nature, agency life has the potential to be exciting when managed well. Learning how to manage the agency-client relationship upfront takes out the stress and can really be a rewarding dynamic. 

The Great Debate: Client vs. Agency

There are two sides to every story. In order to keep things mutually beneficial, have an understanding of what’s going on in both party’s minds: 

Client complaints

  • Lack of communication 
  • Not receiving what we want on time
  • Agency is overpromising and under-delivering 
  • Agency isn’t executing our vision 

Agency complaints

  • Unreasonable requests and deadlines
  • Minimal creative leeway 
  • Client delving too deep into the day-to-day
  • Difficult to understand what client wants 

Bridging the Gap

In a 2016 survey on client-agency relationships, 18% of the surveyed employees stated that communication is the biggest problem with having an outside agency. The blame can’t be placed on one party here. Both the client and the agent have a responsibility to communicate with the other. With good communication comes a good relationship. A rift between a client and an agency is 100% avoidable.

As an agency…

-Know your limits. You’re the captain of your ship, not superman. But your ship is sailing for two, so in order to hoist your sails, you’ll need to stress the importance of open communication with your clients. 

-Don’t view your relationship as transactional. Getting caught up in the day-to-day and treating client requests as vendor requests takes the creativity out of the relationship. Every client request carries with it a different level of meaning and importance. You’re offering an art, an expertise, and a service. 

-Ask questions diligently and listen openly. Communication is only efficient if you’re asking the right questions and getting to the crux of your clients’ needs. This ultimately eliminates the back-and-forth that prolongs the efforts.

As a client…

-Give feedback from the get-go. The last thing you want to do is wait until the relationship is past a point of mending. Take time to think about what you really want and if your agency is executing your vision accordingly.

-Set goals. You brought on the help of an agency for a reason: You have goals to reach. It helps your agency to know these goals and their respective priority levels. 

-Ensure team collaboration from your end. Of course, it’s imperative that your agency is a cohesive group with a unified vision, but it’s equally important that your team is on the same page. 

Use Your Resources

You’ve buttoned up the communication between your team and your clients. How do you ensure it will continue to work? By investing in a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, you can better facilitate efficient communication across both parties. Whether you’re awaiting feedback from a client or trying to upload assets to one centralized spot, a DAM system can be utilized in a way that guarantees all parties will be on the same page.  

Meet in the Middle

Disagreement is inevitable in any relationship, but discord is 100% avoidable. In an agency-client dynamic, honesty is critical. As long as both parties feel comfortable expressing their opinions (the good, the bad, and the ugly) without hard feelings, a common ground can be found. 

Forbes recommends a report card to be used for two-way feedback. The report card method is a mutual evaluation that opens the floor for both parties to express their needs, concerns, and goals. 

The Sky is the Limit

Although there may be a limit on how many deliverables you can produce in 24 hours, there is no limit to the stow of creativity and collaboration that can exist between your agency and your client. 

Begin with a unified goal in mind that both parties agree on. With the right resources and a mutual vision for efficient communication and attainable goals, you’ll be on your way to a successful agency-client relationship.