Client-Agency relationship: how to nail it.


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Part 2 of the series Hiring a marketing agency: what you should expect (and what you shouldn’t)

Now that you have picked the right marketing agency,  your next question as a client might be: which kind of relationship should I build with them? That’s right: the quality of the affinity you develop will closely affect the strategic alignment and ultimately the results you will achieve together.

And, as we mentioned in the previous article, trust is key and you have to be honest with yourself from the very beginning of the working relationship: clear out your true goals and the results you really want to achieve. Communicate them to the agency, together with the core values you stand for. If those match, the first step towards a long-term and successful partnership is done and dusted.

This last tip, together with the following ones, are not “must do” list or best practices. They are suggestions underpinned by our experience. When the relationship with our client is authentic and transparent, the final result will closely represent and align with the client’s business and goals.

The relationship you have with your business reflects the one you’ll have with the agency.

[This is not rocket science, yet it is key. Ask yourself: to what extent do you feel engaged in your own project? How much ownership do you have? How much time do you invest in your business? How much attention do you pay to little tiny details? And more: do you fear changes and new perspectives? Do you avoid confrontation and hard questions? How do you deal with potential frictions? Do you know how to formulate and to accept constructive feedback? Is there trust and transparency within your team?

The answers to these questions closely affect how your relationship with could possibly look and develop.

Based on our experience, we have identified three types of client-agency relations.

The hands-off client

There are two ways for a client to be hands-off. The first occurs when a client doesn’t feel much ownership over the work and delegate all the responsibility to the agency professionals, without giving any suggestions or feedback. The relationship ends up being based on indifference, low collaboration and almost no communication. The second way is to give entire decisional power to the agency, but, this time, agreeing on everything with blind trust. The relationship here is smoother, but still with little communication of the clients’ real goals and expectations.

The micromanager

Asymmetrical power dynamics are sometimes at the very core of client-agency relationships, which then end up in a mere exchange of impositions and orders. The agency has no room to decide what’s the best for the project and the client tends to micromanage the whole process. Needless to say: it’s hard to breathe in those!

The (MVP)  Most Valuable Player

Yes: when the client is the “true MVP” And player here is the key word. This type of relation is based on three main pillars:

  1. Co-creation: client and agency work as a team and both actively collaborate in developing the project.
  2. Validation and input: client checks and validate/give constructive feedback on each step.
  3. Ownership: actively engaged, the client feels ownership over the project. This doesn’t mean that they consider the project uniquely their own, but, instead, that they are aware of their responsibilities towards it. They fully understand that the quality and punctuality of their feedback closely affects the potential success. This prevents from pointless blaming and discontent in case of potential friction.

So, what’s the best type of relationship? At Mowgli, we put the happiness of both our clients and our team before anything else. For us, the magical ingredient of a smooth client-agency relationship is a happy balance found in the co-creation process. We’d like our clients to clearly and firmly tell us their result expectations and then to let us decide on the most suitable strategy to achieve them. Hence, full transparency during the onboarding process plays a key role.

The client onboarding process: the crucial role of the account manager

The onboarding process: where the happy balance is found and expectations are set. Here is when you’ll relate with the account manager, who will be your main point of reference throughout the whole project. In this first phase, the account manager has the key responsibilities to clear out all doubts and requests. So, fire away! This is the time for you to ask him/her anything you have in mind, better now than never or too late.

The account manager will keep you engaged throughout the whole process, step-by-step while setting realistic expectations. Depending on the plan you are working on with the agency, you might relate with other professionals. Two of them, the art director and the copywriter, are known as the “Creative couple.” Working with them is fascinating: they usually have boundless imagination and creative power. Whenever you’re interacting with them, enjoy the creative burst and input they will give. However, make sure to keep in mind your business goals to avoid to get them lost in such volcano of ideas.

Of course, good agencies will do that for you. This usually happens with the strategist, who will help you craft an overall direction for your marketing activities based on your goals, values, vision and mission.

There are many more professionals working at marketing agencies, each with their own quirks and biases, but also with their own awesomeness: SEO experts and web designers, content managers and UX experts, social media managers and media buyers. Good agencies value all these professionals in their peculiarity, and yet seamlessly blend them together in a flawless whole. Their purpose is only and solely of communicating your brand, product and uniqueness to your customer and help you grow.

Find that sweet balance between agency and client ownership

Pro and final tip here: find and trust the happy balance. Delegating doesn’t come natural and we often strive to control everything, especially when the success of our own business is at stake. It’s human. Well, guess what? Good agencies will care about your project as much as you do. If you leave room for them to care, they will also feel ownership over the project and magic will happen! A magic based on pragmatic and clear goals – that you decide – and an effective strategic approach – brought to you by the agency. There’s where the balance flourishes. Trust the process!

Once established clear goals and expectations, how to communicate is the next crucial step. That’s why our next episode will be entirely dedicated to this, together with a detailed explanation of the tools that you and the agency need to implement to ensure an efficient documentation of the workflow and make the validation process as smooth as possible.

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A change agency: we combine fresh vision and strategic thinking to make change happen.

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