Looking for a Better Client-Agency Relationship? Look No Further

Client-Agency Relationship

Sara Gaviser Leslie is a brand marketer, creative consultant, and former Emotive Brand employee. After years of thriving on the agency-side of the equation, she recently took an interim position at Course Hero to experience the client-side of things. If you’re looking to improve your client-agency relationship, here are her five tips to make sure every project is a success.


The Client-Agency Relationship

Until recently, I’ve never experienced a brand creative project from the client-side. I was always the consultant. But, recently, when I took an interim but full-time role with a client, I was asked to run a creative project. I had expected mine would be the easier assignment; someone else was doing the work, right? What I learned, though, is that the client—and their relationship with the agency team—can improve the outcome of a project but also sabotage its success. I noticed some things that helped drive the success of these projects. Whether you’re working with an agency on a brand strategy, campaign, or video series, I am hoping they’ll help you, too.

1. Sharing Is Caring

Almost every project starts with a discovery phase. This is when the client shares all the materials that explain the company’s strategy and current brand. Your agency will likely give you a list of suggested documents. Don’t hold back! It’s your agency’s job to review the material; more really is better. And don’t worry if pieces are in draft form. Just send them along.

2. Make Yourself Uncomfortable—At Least a Little

One of the reasons that you chose the agency you did was because you saw the work they’d completed for other clients. It was clever, interesting, and maybe a bit unexpected, right?

I get that it’s easier to propose something unexpected when you are on the agency-side. I’d caution against clients playing things safe, however. As the marketing/brand representative from your company, your role is to ensure that the agency’s work is on-brand. The agency’s role is to create something different and memorable. Where these two roles converge is where the best creative work happens.

3. Chase Enthusiasm

Following from the point above, when you get to the point of choosing between different campaign options, as long as neither compromises the brand, choose the one that the agency likes best. You want to work on things that excite you, right? Your agency is no different. If they gravitate to a certain concept, take that cue. They’ll be more excited to work on that idea and you’ll get a better product.

4. Educate Them on What You Have Learned

One of the reasons I love consulting is because I love learning about new industries, business models, and technologies. My clients are great teachers. In a recent project, while our agency had original and interesting ideas for new social assets, they had less experience actually implementing these assets on different channels. You may also find that your agency is less skilled in performance marketing, content strategy, sales, or other execution work. Teach them! When you, the client, explain how you will use assets and what methods are most successful, your agency will be better equipped to meet your creative and implementation needs.

5. Lean on Them for Support

A campaign or other creative project is an investment. But it’s not worth pursuing this kind of project if you can’t implement it. If you have to move individuals in-house from one high-priority project to your high-priority campaign, your company loses. Similarly, if you are shorthanded on designers, copywriters, or videographers, make your needs known to your agency. Agency teams include full-time team employees, but most also have connections to freelancers in every possible area. Getting the right implementation team—whether internal or external—ensures that the creative work wasn’t in vain.

Instead of two parties on opposite sides of a negotiation, think about projects with agencies as partnerships filled with lots of possibilities. A growth mindset pushes you forward. What can you do together? What can each side gain? Agencies and clients are better when they work together.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.

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