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10 Things a Client Should Demand from an Agency Partner

Katie Briscoe

Successfully managing a relationship – personally or professionally – is one of life’s most difficult (and rewarding) endeavors. At the core of the really good ones there is almost always a real and meaningful partnership. 

Through my own observations and conversations with colleagues on both the client and agency sides, I continue to be surprised at how underdeveloped so many client/agency partnerships remain. 

One of the best compliments we’ve ever received was when a client  – unprompted – explained that the MMGY account team truly felt like a part of their organization. And, ultimately, that MMGY was essential to the success of their marketing efforts and their business at large.

That felt great. At least until a meeting a few days later when another client referred to our team as a vendor

Now that stung.

The reason is simple. We can be so much more. If that’s all we are – a vendor – it’s not enough. If that’s all we are, I’d imagine the work is just okay. 

The very best work we do (the kind that generates results and wins awards) is for clients that work with us as business partners.

I catch myself frequently saying, “If I ever go back to client side, I’d...”

So, indulge me as I put on my “client hat” and list my top 10 non-negotiables that you should not only expect, but demand, from any marketing agency. These things are essential to have a prosperous partnership.

  1. Think big picture.
    I may have hired you exclusively to build a website for me, but you’re a full-service, integrated marketing agency; I expect your team to understand how critical content strategy is, how innovative paid media strategies can get the most qualified traffic to the site, and how we can utilize the ever-changing landscape of social media to continue to build loyalty around my brand. Show me you can do more than just what I’ve hired you to do and I’ll probably ask you to do more.
  2. Play well with others.
    There are a lot of talented agencies out there. The notion that we’re going to be in monogamous agency/client partnership is naïve. I might fall in love with one to architect my brand, another to design my digital platform, and another to execute my media buy. If you can’t play nice with other agencies I’ve selected, you’re not being a good partner for me. We’ve all got to sit at the table together and invest in each other to be successful.
  3. Solve problems.
    One of the ways you can provide the most value to me is to be easy to work with. At the heart of this is your commitment to solving problems. Most likely, I’ll be articulating problems from my perspective. I’d also expect you to discover some on your own through observation and experience. Either way, your job is to provide solutions for me to build from. I might not always agree with your ideas, but I want you bringing them to the table.
  4. Spend our money as if it were your own.
    The moment I float you my valuable marketing dollars, I’m entrusting you to spend money that makes money. Period. You are a steward of my budget. Your job is to optimize marketing programs to maximize opportunity that drives revenue/leads/etc. to my business. I don’t waste time and I certainly don’t waste money.
  5. Know my business like you’re my staff.
    I might not sign your paycheck, but your account team should understand the ins and outs of my business, like you’re walking in and out of my office every day. If you don’t deeply understand my business or product, you’re going to have a hell of a time selling it. 
  6. Take calculated* risks.
    Marketing is fun. The opportunities we have to reach target audiences in creative and innovative ways feels almost infinite. Mass marketing initiatives have become so personal. And customers feel loyalty toward businesses with which they have personal relationships. To build these relationships, you’ve got to try new things, measure success and try again.
    *See ‘Spend our money as if it were your own.’
  7. Focus on what’s important.
    You must be laser focused on things that actually move the needle. Do you really need to go through four rounds of copy revisions on a fourth-tier webpage? Probably not. Do you need to watch micro conversions in the booking path and optimize to continue driving revenue? You better be. We can’t be successful if we hold everything at the same level of importance. 
  8. Success and failure are shared.
    I want you to have the same level of passion for my business or product that I do. I expect you to be thrilled when my business grows as a result of our work together. I would also expect you to be disappointed when a program didn’t work as well as we had planned. Indifference is unacceptable. And to prove you’re invested, I’d like to tie some of your compensation to positive performance. I win, you win.
  9. Have a plan, but be nimble.
    Flexibility is key. I hired you because of your familiarity with the industry, your ability to navigate the marketing landscape and your willingness to react quickly to opportunities. We’ll always need a plan in place that’s driven by mutually agreed goals, but I don’t want you to be afraid to off-road a bit if it’s going to help us achieve those goals. 
  10. Know more about me than my job title.
    A great professional relationship always has a personal aspect to it. When you enjoy who you’re working with, you tend to enjoy your work. When you enjoy your work, the work tends to be pretty good. We’re all busy people, but taking the time to get to know your partners is invaluable. 
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