How to be a great client in 2021

Even if you are a model client, your agencies love you, the work is outstanding and you’re somehow living a utopian marketing dream, all great clients should want to find ways to constantly improve.  And with that in mind, here’s a perspective on how marketers can help their teams become better clients and foster stronger client / agency working relationships:

Partners – not vendors

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a vendor as ‘a person who sells things – especially on the street…’ And even if you extrapolate that to mean selling widgets to factories, service partners like agencies don’t sell ‘stuff’ like hotdogs on the street.  Agencies aren’t vendors. They’re smart people who can help drive your business and should be treated as valued partners – not hotdog salesmen.

Define success

Be clear about what every facet of success looks like for you, your team and your business, write it down and share it with your agencies. If it’s just ‘increased sales’ you’re missing the point. Define a successful outcome for you and how your team would like to work and ladder up to the broader business objectives you’re trying to achieve.  The more clarity you can provide around success metrics, the more likely your agencies will be in achieving those goals.

Welcome feedback

Create a mechanism for constructive feedback, listen to it, welcome it and – wherever possible – act on it. If someone is providing you with feedback, chances are it means they care enough to speak up about something that could make life easier and better than it is today – perhaps even avert problems you’re not even aware of.

Thank you

When I started this business, I about fell over when clients called or dropped me a note to say ‘thank you’. I’d come from an environment that rarely ever said ‘thank you’ and it wasn’t until I started hearing it, that I realized how much a thank you really means.  A well-placed thank you can go a long way to helping client-agency relationships, motivating teams and being remembered the next time you need a favour.

Don’t be a jerk

Just as a ‘thank you’ can go a long way – so can being a jerk. We’re all under pressure, goals are aggressive, timelines are tight and budgets are even tighter. You know it. And so do your agencies. So that’s no excuse for being a jerk when things go wrong.

Make yourself available

The reason most of us have jobs is because somebody needs us for something they can’t do themselves. On that basis alone, your input and insight is likely going to be helpful.  So even your schedule is packed from 8 to 6 five days a week, you need to make time to meet and talk with your agencies on a regular basis.

Create fair terms

Everyone deserves to make a fair profit for what they do and your agencies are no exception. Squeezing the life out of an agency agreement will ultimately come back to haunt you if the terms are unreasonable.  Whether it’s the price you pay, the payment terms you set or other conditions that are overly favourable to your company – make sure your contracts provide value for both you and your agencies.

Be honest about what you don’t know

Yes, it can be embarrassing when someone half your age has to coach you through something you’re not familiar with. And if you’ve not been there yet, get ready – you’re either a complete genius or you’re missing something (and it’s probably be important). The marketer’s world has never been more reliant on technology than it is today – nobody knows it all. (And that’s OK).

These are just some of the ‘wish-list’ items we’ve heard from agencies about some of their clients.  What rings true for you and how could you help your team become better clients to their agencies?


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Pingz Man

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