Whether you’re on the agency side or the client side, a strong relationship with great communication and established expectations is essential for maximising the chance of a successful and meaningful business relationship.
Set expectations — realistic ones.
Expectations, on both sides, are important for setting standards, benchmarks and for being able to evaluate progress. An agency needs to be sure that they don’t oversell on their abilities, particularly for things outside their scope of power. Clients also need to be accountable for providing timely and thorough information that enables their agency to work effectively on their behalf.
“A good client-agency relationship is defined at the very beginning. We believe that a good onboarding includes the definition of objectives and the measurement of success” Ira Reckenthäler, Managing Director Ranieri Agency Germany.
Mapping out a process with goals and deliverables as well as assigning ownership either to the agency or the client in the listed process makes it easier to set and manage expectations. This also quickly pinpoints bottlenecks and potentially problematic areas.
If a client has unrealistic expectations and an agency doesn’t communicate effectively, the relationship is doomed to fail. At the same time, both sides should continually explore areas that can be improved.
Luciano Alibrandi, Managing Director Ranieri Agency France, has worked both client and agency side: “Over the years, I’ve learned that the foundations of a successful relationship with your PR agency begin right at the start, with the pitch process. Too often, clients fail to invest in suitably briefing agency candidates on their goals and expectations. If you’re not able to articulate why you do, what you do and how you do it, the likelihood of selecting an agency that will be a good fit in helping you achieve your goals is at risk. I believe that few companies recognise the importance of instilling their brand’s vision into their PR agency.”
Transparency: Agencies may have proprietary methods, but a good degree of transparency is important. This helps establish trust and set realistic expectations. While clients don’t necessarily need details at a micro-level, they do need an overview to understand steps that will be taken to help them achieve their goals. Setting up checkpoints along the way builds trust on both sides of the relationship and maximizes the chances of achieving success and exceeding goals.
Deliverables: The client needs to be able to trust their agency, whether with ongoing efforts, a major launch or something in-between. This takes time. Communication and tangible deliverables can help with that. Instead of setting up a project with a start and end date and examining results after the fact, ongoing reporting and/or status reports make a difference. And in today’s fast-moving world, where opportunities can reveal themselves quickly and disappear just as fast, ongoing checkpoints can help you optimize successful efforts to extract more value from them as well as stop the bleeding on a problematic project before damage is irreparable.
Meetings: Do you need a weekly meeting or conference call? Will the agency provide on-demand or scheduled reporting? Or, can the client access reports as they need them as well as get help quickly if they need it?
Reporting: Knowing where you started can help determine whether or not you’ve gotten where you need to be (or if you’re on your way there). Reporting is invaluable as a tool to measure success. And beyond £ values, there are many measurables that can help. Not only can you see where there is a success, but you can also use reporting to help steer your way through difficult areas.
Note: Tools and technology offer a great degree of automation but should not replace regular communication, which fosters a strong agent-client relationship.
Ongoing communications help both the client and agency ensure the opportunity for success while strengthening the relationship. Today, many agency-client relationships are 100% remote. Leveraging communication tools help immensely. Beyond phone, email and text, collaborative tools — our agency uses Teamwork, Slack and Google Hangouts — can also help manage timezones.
However, relationships can be strengthened through traditional contact methods, too. Phone calls. Meetings. Lunches. If you’re not in the same city or can’t meet in person, video or phone conference calls, at least occasionally, can make the communication feel more personal and help strengthen the client-agency bond.
And while professionalism in business is always of paramount importance, relationship-building happens with connections. Regular meetings and conversations that have a personal element to them help build relationships. Teams are stronger when, beyond common goals for success on projects, people also find common ties and interests.
Understand your clients’ unique needs.
Tailored solutions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach show value in today’s market. Agencies that strive to understand that every client is unique will have a better chance of gaining trust and confidence, and help each client feel like their agency is an extended part of their team. Value comes in tailored solutions. Success comes through understanding a client’s business model as well as their goals.
In addition to an agency getting to know a client’s business model and unique needs, it’s also helpful for clients to gain a good understanding of how their agency works. I’d recommend clients ask their agency questions like: “Will I have a main point of contact or dedicated account manager?” “Do you provide detailed reporting on a regular basis?” and “What does the process look like if something goes wrong on my website?”
Strive for continuous improvement.
Clients and agencies that devise ways to communicate on what’s working and what needs improvement continually optimize their working relationship and reap the rewards. Clients deserve ongoing results, continual improvement and consistent value.
When an agency operates with these principles, showing measured efforts to their clients and striving to not only achieve but maintain trust with clients, the stage can be set for success with great reviews, referrals and customer retention.
Find our more about Ranieri Agency here.