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How to avoid agency: client heartbreak

According to the latest IPA Bellwether report, overall marketing spend and confidence is on the up, offering opportunities for both new business and organic growth. Findings from independent research we commissioned – based on 200 senior-level UK client and agency communications professionals - revealed that increasing competition is one of their top three challenges.

Ultimately clients’ focus is on finding the most effective and efficient solution to unlocking a problem or opportunity – which makes it absolutely crucial to both differentiate your offering for new business opportunities and deliver meaningful impact for retained clients.

Now is a great time to undertake a relationship “health check” and ensure that there is complete alignment of understanding and capability, to deliver both the scope of work required and exceed expectations.

Here are some of our top tips to help agencies keep the relationship in the very best of health:

1. Keep your curiosity. Never lose your enthusiasm or inquisitiveness; that’s at the heart of delivering great work. Keep bringing that fresh perspective and always use insights in a way that is relevant for your clients.

2. Change it up. During an on-going relationship, change is a given whether budget challenges, a new management structure or scope creep. It’s therefore so important to pro-actively re-align internally within the agency, remaining adaptable and responsive whilst still delivering that objectivity and perspective you were originally chosen for.

3. Be crystal clear on the real brief. Never proceed without clarity of direction, whether that is creatively or strategically – exploring the problem/opportunity without making assumptions will save a lot of time down the line for both you and the client. This is becoming ever more important as marketing becomes more integrated and requirements change.

4. Nip it in the bud. Have the grown up conversations as soon as niggles arise and before they turn into real issues. It needs to be acceptable to admit when things are not going perfectly internally, and honesty with a proposed solution in a difficult situation is always valued. Ignore the basics at your peril.

5. One mind. You should always aim to be an extension of the client team, working to one agenda and one vision. But don’t go native as your continued objectivity and perspective is critical throughout. Constant reviews should be undertaken including all members of the client and agency team to highlight any disconnect, and proactively look for new ways you can deliver against your client’s needs.

Kerry Glazer, CEO of AAR, experts in client:agency relationships.