We had a theory that the best clients to work with also got the best results. To test this theory, we created a Perfect Client Index (PCI).
Last year, we invested time and resources to measure and study how our interaction with clients correlated with results. We just recently completed this year-long PCI evaluation process. Part of this evaluation included 10 simple ways our clients can contribute to the agency relationship to maximize their results.
In looking at our data and correlating it to measured account performance, we realized the PCI index could give some brand marketers working with agencies, the guidance on what we need from clients so they can get the most from the agency partnership – and the most return for their investment.
1. Challenge Us and Ask Good Questions
To us, a perfect client doesn’t necessarily correlate with an “easy” client. Our best relationships and partnerships are often built on challenging the status quo and challenging each other for the greater good of the business. Perfect client doesn’t mean “stamping yes” on every agency recommendation or the clients that don’t ask questions and challenge assumptions to help move programs forward.
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Context is king. A client may only hire us to do paid search or content development, but these services fit into a much bigger picture. From our experience, we create much better results for clients when we understand how what we do fits into the bigger strategic picture of a brand’s and company’s wider annual goals.
Communicate often from feedback to changes in company objectives. Our clients who communicate the most and offer the greatest transparency regularly enjoy incredible results.
3. Give Constructive and Honest Feedback
Even after a contract gets signed, there’s still a need for the agency and client to get to know each other better. It takes a little time for an agency to learn how client’s like to see reports and data. On more than one occasion, a client will tell us they “love that report” while another tells us it was “way too into the weeds.”
We’ve never met a client who didn’t love data, but we also get that reports don’t need to have 10,000 rows of data. In-person, over the phone or via email, a client should not hesitate to tell us what you do and don’t like, what you’d like to see and how you’d like to see it.
4. Stay Informed
Clients hire us to stay on top of the data and campaigns. We promise to work hard and dedicate the hours to fulfill our agreement. To help the relationship as a client, take time to review the data and reports provided so we can make the most of our meetings and make strategic decisions aligned with your goals.
5. Tell Us Why
Clients who tell us why they have made the ask help us to understand the bigger picture. This informs our decision-making for that ask and going forward. This saves both us and the client time and energy. It could be something big like a change in goals or budgets, or something simpler like a reporting change or copy update. The deeper our understanding, the better advice and counsel we can provide.
6. Trust the Data
We’ll “bend over backwards” for clients, but in digital marketing “the client is always right” is not the rule. Agencies and clients may disagree or perhaps share a similar thought or idea about a target audience and campaign only to find out the data says completely the opposite. Clients hire us to build mountains of data to inform decisions. Clients who understand data that contradicts expectations isn’t an attack on anyone’s expertise or competence, but instead a revelation, will see improved results when the tactics recommended by the data is applied.
7. Let’s Talk Scope
Ah, the bane of every agency-client relationship: the dreaded “Scope Creep.” Every agency knows client’s don’t like it. For what it’s worth, agencies don’t either. Scope remains a structured tension in every client services business relationship. And “Scope Creep” remains one of the biggest challenges for agencies of all sizes.
No client wants to feel like they’re being “nickel and dimed” for every project and every agency knows their commodity is time. The solution? Open, direct and honest communication and clearly aligned expectations documented, agreed to, and signed by key decision makers.
8. Trust the Process
The application of time-tested approaches guided by constant review and adjustment, or process, helps an agency meet each client’s goals. The process may include the implementation of new tactics and new vendors as appropriate and necessary. Our greatest client success comes when the process is allowed to work.
9. Know Your Risk Tolerance
None of the previous steps succeed if an agency is misaligned on risk tolerance. Every agency needs to clearly understand how far it can go to test new tactics as informed by the data, of course. From our experience, we know and respect that clients with limited budgets are generally risk averse.
We also know clients in growth mode may be more flexible and willing to test new approaches. With new always comes some risk. As an agency partner, we always ask that our clients engage us in an open discussion of the risk/reward of new tactics.
10. Have Fun
Yes, fun fits into the picture too! Agencies know this is your business and client goals always remain the #1 priority. Even though it’s a professional relationship, does it mean we can’t enjoy the work, the people your working with and have a little fun along the way?
As an in-house marketer working with an agency, hopefully some of the above will already be on your “Yes, that’s me!” This list isn’t about making agencies happy, but rather the keys we’ve found to build strong and successful partnerships that drive the best results for your business. Hopefully one or two of these is new and can help enrich your client-agency relationship.