At its most basic level, the relationship between client and agency is really pretty simple.
The client wants to hit its marketing goals (whether it’s raising brand awareness, funnelling traffic to a specific webpage, gaining more email newsletter subscribers, or anything in between), while the agency wants a clear brief and creative control to achieve the best results.
However, add in an array of stakeholders, all with varying views about what constitutes a successful campaign and what the business should be trying to achieve with its marketing right now, and this relationship becomes a little harder to manage.
While the client is the paying customer and the agency provides the service, the responsibility for maintaining a fruitful partnership lies with both. So what can clients do to ensure this relationship doesn’t go from content marketing to discontent marketing?
It sounds like a cliche, but the thing about cliches is they’re often true – as anyone who’s lived their life following the mantra “laughter is the best medicine” will gladly tell you.
Strong communication really is vital to get the best from your agency. Take the time to put together a comprehensive brief – in collaboration with your agency – before the start of a new campaign, and give accurate, clear feedback as frequently as you can.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to your writer, graphic designer, social media consultant or anyone else on the marketing team supporting you.
We all know that email has the power to turn even the politest message into a passive-aggressive minefield, so give them a ring instead.
This can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your message across clearly, while also building a closer, more productive working relationship with your agency.
When you first decide to bring an agency on board, it’s probably because you lack the expertise or resource to do the work in-house. You might be expecting your agency to be experts at what they do, and not to have to spoon-feed them an endless supply of content ideas.
But for this to happen, you need to trust your agency to get on with their work and show initiative.
Understandably, you’ll want to know what they’re working on at any given time (and how it contributes to your marketing goals), but you should also be prepared to give your creative partners a level of freedom in planning and executing your marketing projects.
Of course, trust needs to be earned, but you’re unlikely to see the highest standard of content – or the best results, for that matter – if you can’t take a step back and leave your agency to it.
Client/agency relationships work best when your agency is basically an extension of your business, with the added benefit that – unlike your real colleagues – you don’t have to make awkward small talk with your writer or account manager every day.
But it takes a little effort – on both parts – to achieve this lofty goal.
One of the biggest barriers here is transparency; your agency can never truly be like your own in-house marketing team if they don’t know what’s going on at your business, whether that’s a restructuring, a key employee leaving, a new product launch, or any other significant development that’s clearly linked to your marketing.
Agencies understand their clients can’t fill them in on everything, particularly where sensitive or confidential business plans and information are concerned. But if it’s something that’s connected, directly or indirectly, to the work your agency is doing for you, it’s always advisable and generally good practice to keep them in the loop.
Some more hackneyed but true sayings apply here: Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and so on.
As frustrating as it sounds, you shouldn’t expect new marketing initiatives to generate results overnight.
You might hope that your agency can immediately triple your Twitter followers or increase traffic to your key product pages by 20 per cent within a month, but content marketing is all about playing the long game.
And remember, it’s crucial to play by the rules.
The more you try to take shortcuts to fool the system – bad SEO practices like keyword stuffing being an obvious example – the less effective your efforts are likely to be.
Of course, agencies also need to keep their side of the bargain. They need to earn their clients’ trust by delivering results, showing flexibility and appreciating the unique needs and priorities of every business. Mutual understanding and commitment on both sides is crucial for any client/agency relationship to succeed.
If you would like to learn more about how Axonn delivers results for our clients, you can contact us.