The client-vendor relationship is more than just a business transaction. If managed poorly, it can make or break a business and ruin the reputation of a vendor. However, if managed correctly, it can be a fulfilling and thriving partnership for both parties involved. In order to ensure that this pairing succeeds, it's important to keep the following points in mind:
The majority of the problems that arise in a client-agency relationship stem from unclear communication. To solve this issue, ensure you are speaking regularly with each other. Each phone call or meeting should start with a clear agenda and end with a comprehensive recap that ensures both parties are completely aware of what next steps each has to take. The details of any conversations or decisions that occur outside of your regularly scheduled meetings should be captured in writing. Too often clients and agencies can get embroiled in games of he said/she said, which can lead to everything from unmet deadlines to overspent budgets.
Be Real About Expectations
One of the first conversations a client and an agency should have when they begin working together needs to revolve around the expectation each has for the other. From more macro issues like goals and direction, to more micro decisions like feedback timelines, every decision should be documented in a project brief to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Not setting the right expectations right from the start is a recipe for disaster later on in the relationship. Both parties should know what to expect from one another through the entire process, as this is not something you want to be mapping out together when things in the relationship might be strained.
See Each Other As Partners
Understanding that success for both agency and client will only come when working together as partners is a key part of building a great relationship together. Clients and agencies need to be open and honest with one another to make sure that this can be achieved. Each team needs to keep a couple of different things in mind:
Clients: Don’t treat your agency as merely an order-taker. While you definitely have your own goals and objectives that need to be met, listening to their strategic input about your business may allow you to gain new insights or explore a new direction with your marketing plan that you wouldn’t have even thought about otherwise.
Agencies: Don't treat your client as an outsider. Educate them on your internal processes so they can understand how to help you work better. If you have any internal project management documents that haven't been given to the client, whether they be task trackers or briefs, don't be hesitant to roll those out to them to help better foster better understanding about your processes.
Don't Be Afraid to Innovate
As with any longer-term engagement, it’s very easy for things to get stagnant. It's important to regularly assess where things are with each other in terms of goal progress, and to work together to find new creative ways to solve problems. Brainstorming together once a quarter is an extremely helpful exercise and the solutions you come up with can lead to great results. Following through with the ideas you come up with and having the courage to deviate from the initial strategy slightly in order to put them to use can be a helpful way to get added results that help both businesses grow while helping the client to achieve their goals.
Remember, We’re All Human
While it's always important to maintain an air of professionalism, getting to know the people behind the voice on the phone is very advantageous to strengthening a client-agency relationship. Before jumping right into business, spend the start of each of your calls lightly socializing. Make an effort to understand who your partner is as a person, instead of keeping your dealings too cold or methodical. Social outings together once a quarter can also help, and go a long way towards solidifying bonds and reminding both parties that although there may be differences at times, you're both working together towards the same common goal.
What do you look for in the perfect vendor-client relationship? Let us know in the comments section below.