10 tips for a better agency-client liaison

10 tips for a better agency-client liaison

So here’s the deal. I’ve been in the client’s side for over 12 years and I’ve always seen how agencies overcharge, go completely off brief, pitch crazy ideas that would win them awards but bring in no ROI for the client, keep changing people who manage the account, charge hefty amounts for small edits, promise to bring in a million Facebook likes and the list goes on.

The roles have reversed now. I’m that agency guy! It’s a bit like sitting next to a family with kids, on a plane. You feel so cross if you get that dreaded seat near the loo because the chances of a family sitting next to you is far higher and eventually when that first child screams non stop, you just wish Bose invented a permanent noise cancellation device. (new product idea right there!) However, reverse the roles and you’re that poor dad or mum with a child who wants to scream the entire journey and wants to jump off the plane & constantly get’s that ‘is that your child’ look. This is when you understand the true meaning of empathy. Advertising and client relationships are the same.

Heading a digital ad agency (or any agency) has it’s ups and downs. Dealing with various people with various personalities is something we do day in day out. In most cases the AM’s tend to massage the client’s ego’s and there’s a rare few who tend to be forthright with their opinions and sometimes crash and burn.

Here’s a quick checklist to keep in mind by both agencies as well as clients.

1. The client is not always right, but they do understand their business a lot more

The client usually hires an agency to help them with things they don’t know. One of the biggest mistakes an agency can do is to just execute everything a client says and not add value by bringing in competitor insights and other trend bases insights. Always ask questions, try to learn about their business and help them achieve their business objectives. During a good conversation with a client, one can get really good info nuggets that can later turn into great campaign ideas.

2. Beware of vanity metrics, i.e. a million likes on Facebook

I’ve lost many pitches to fellow digital agencies who have pitched million likes in a few weeks. Clients and agencies please take note; the FB algorithm has changed and unless you have Unilad, Mashable or terroristy type of content, you’ll be lucky to have 4 to 5% organic reach on your posts. Don’t believe me? Take an average number of likes on your posts, divide that by your total page likes, get a percentage and see what you get!

Source: Mathew Barby: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-tools/this-chart-explains-the-reachpocalypse-and-why-facebook-is-laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank/

3. Listening has it’s perks and do take notes at meetings

The agencies nor the clients tend to listen to each other or take notes at meetings. It’s not a them vs us scenario or a popularity contest. You’re both in this together. The client has to educate the agency about their brand, products etc…and the agency has to quickly learn and then apply their creativity and technical know how to take the brand where the client intends to. We are all human after all and our brain capacities are limited, so it’s always good to take notes and please don’t frown upon on the guy who opens his mac and takes notes! It really might come in handy. 🙂

4. Be professional, respect people’s time

Just because you’re a big client does not mean you should let people hanging outside. You won’t do that to your CEO or your customers so why do it to anyone else? On the flip side, even if you’re from a big ass double or triple barrel named agency, you should not leave your client waiting either. It’s simple, respect each other’s time. We all have shit to do and we don’t need to spend time reading your magazines at the reception.

5. You don’t need to know everything or pretend to know everything

I really don’t know why people pretend to know everything. We don’t pretend to know the scientific composition of the antibiotics we get prescribed; and similarly it’s pointless trying to figure out Google’s multi arm bandit theory, just do your fricking CRO right. Reading a cheap blog on 100 ways to get more organic traffic does not mean you know SEO. Sometimes the best CMO’s I’ve worked with know jack about certain technical topics but are great leaders because they trust the professionals they work with.

6. People change, get on with it

Change is the only constant in this world. People change jobs due to various reasons and they move on. As agencies we need to make sure the transitions are smoother, have a backup plan always and maybe use an #apache style comms method where everyone within that account team is copied on all emails so that everyone learns and is up to speed, even if someone leaves. And as clients we need to give the ‘new guy’ a bit of time to settle in. After all, we were new in some job once!

7. Give the small guy a chance

Just because an agency is small or hasn’t worked in your vertical, does not mean they can’t do bigger, cooler things. Getting a smaller agency might actually get you more C-level attention as you might be a bigger client for them. Similarly from an agency’s pov, a startup might not bring in cash for you right now, but in the future it might be your biggest account. Hedge your bets clearly and have a long term strategy. Don’t forget, Whatsapp, Instagram, Uber and even Facebook were very small at one point.

8. Change with the times, don’t be the next Kodak

#DigitalTransformation is key to the success of any product or business strategy. The world is going digital and the ones who don’t adapt and digitise their P’s may lose out big time. You need to work with your agency to figure out the latest consumer trends and behaviour too and keep in mind where these consumers are and what their #MicroMoments are. Put tracking in place to figure out multi device #attribution. But most of all, be receptive and be open to change.

9. Do read up and be up to date on Digital Marketing, ‘cos it’s the future

Just because you rely on an agency to do your SEO, SEM, Social Media and Analytics, it doesn’t mean you should not know how it works. Become a ‘T’ shaped marketer where you have a breadth of knowledge on most aspects and deeper level understanding of a few. As an agency you need to understand your client’s product at a similar level to your clients. This is when the magic happens!

Image Source: Moz

10. Advertising is not the answer to a bad product

Customer experience (CX) is key to the success of any product marketing strategy and should be given utmost priority. It’s important to understand your customer’s path and making it better and seamless before thinking of even investing in any form of advertising. Otherwise the admen will bring you traffic and the site will act like a sieve and not a funnel!