I have had the benefit of being on both sides of the marketing communications agency–client relationship: many years as the client, and now many years on the agency side.
Both are good places for different reasons. Both have different rewards and different challenges. In fact, on the agency side, we inevitably hear the same frustrations from clients that I, myself, had as a client.
Some helpful guidance for stronger agency/client relationships:
Follow the plan
As a strategic planner, I’m sometimes asked why a campaign fell short or didn’t work. Many times, it’s because the plan was not followed as it was intended. This is an important consideration because any time a plan is partially followed, or deviated from, it produces very different results.
Revisit the plan
Budgets and other considerations may require plan alterations. Instead of simply deviating from a plan, I am a big believer in frequently revisiting it so it morphs throughout the life of the campaign. In those cases, rework the entire plan so it adequately reflects the new factors and resets expectations.
When I was a client, I remember many conversations questioning why the agency couldn’t follow our (so we thought) very specific, brilliant direction. I suspect we have clients who wonder the same thing about us. This is a very common concern from folks who work with agencies.
I’ve spent a good deal of time pondering this mindset. Most often, it’s perspective that gets in the way of great work, whether it’s the view of the client, the client’s boss, the client’s board of directors or the agency’s writer, planner, designer or media buyer.
“Just make the logo bigger”
Further complicating this issue is that most of the time, there’s not a “right” answer. Is it really going to matter if we make the URL a little larger? Will it ruin the piece if the logo is on the left instead of right? Does the message make sense if we remove this word or that word? The answer is maybe.
One thing that surprised me when I joined the agency is how much your agency team considers and debates things that may be questionable.
Agencies aren’t always right, but we are always contemplative. It’s best to go back to solid research, results and facts, yet communications and audiences change quickly. So we consider all kinds of information, think and talk it through, and recommend changes – or no changes.
So here’s my advice from one client to another, from one agency insider to another: Listen to each other and consider what it means to the audience.
This seems elementary, but it’s not. The best answer is likely something that both sides influence with their own expertise. The last thing either side wants is to get so wrapped up with being “right” that both miss out. A solid agency/client relationship is built on mutual respect and the ability to get the most out of each other.