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Building a Great Agency-Client Relationship From the Ground Up

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Updated on:
February 15, 2024
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The best way to grow your agency is to focus on keeping clients satisfied and coming back for more. You have to work on balancing the nurturing of existing clients with effective lead generation. Investing in effective onboarding without neglecting long-term clients is also a must.

In other words, it can be a challenge, especially for fast-growing agencies or those eager to break into adjacent markets. Focusing on the agency-client relationship can help achieve the right balance for growth and excellent company reputation.

In this article, we take a look at what makes a great agency-client relationship. We’ll also give you actionable tips to implement and advice on upgrading your tech stack to meet the demands of an increasing client base.

Defining the Agency-Client Relationship

Relationships are important in all walks of life, from personal to professional. As an agency, you want to build relationships that make your clients feel special. You want them to return for multiple projects, tell their peers about your firm, and share their experiences online.

A great agency-client relationship is one where you:

  • Understand the overarching goals of your client.
  • Speak their language, matching their tone, company values, and general ethos.
  • Communicate in the ways they want to be heard, whether that’s via Zoom, face-to-face, or by email.
  • Don’t over-promise or under-deliver.
  • Feel comfortable being transparent about your processes.
  • Are happy to let your client share the details of their relationship with you online.

It’s important to only work with clients whose values align with your own. If you’re focusing on sustainability, for example, and work with a company known for poor environmental practices, this could seriously damage your reputation. Good relationships need a strong foundation. Great agencies build up from this foundation to foster positive relationships that can last for years.

Benefits of Positive Agency-Client Relationships

Why is it so critical to focus on building a positive agency-client relationship? Beyond the basics of keeping clients happy in the short term, good relationships can lead to ongoing business success. Happy clients tell others about their experiences and help you stand out in crowded marketplaces.

Here are five measurable benefits that come from good client relationships.

1. Successfully Meet Client Expectations

You might think it goes without saying that you need to meet your client’s expectations. However, without a good relationship, your goals might not be aligned at all. Your understanding of the scope of the project might not actually be what the client wants from your team.

A client’s goals can change at any point during the lifecycle of a project. This can lead to “scope creep,” the subtle separation of client goals from project scope. The aims and objectives you set as part of your contract no longer reflect what the client needs.

A screenshot of the Bonsai project page, one element that can be important for the agency client relationship.

Mitigate scope creep by regular catchups, communicating in ways that are meaningful for your client, and utilizing tools to monitor progress. Showing your clients that you’re serious about meeting their expectations vastly improves the chances of them hiring you again.

2. Increase Client Retention

Poor client experiences cost American companies $83 billion each year — although that figure is not restricted to agencies. Retaining clients means taking the time to provide excellent value and create trust between your firm and theirs.

It’s more expensive to onboard a new client than it is to keep an existing one satisfied. A constant churn of clients who want to try a new agency is a surefire way to hemorrhage money. Finding ways to make clients, new and existing, feel valued boosts retention while cutting down on overheads.

3. Increase Client Value

Clients that stay for longer spend more, too. In some industries, the average order value increases by 30% after six months and 45% after 36 months. An agency-client relationship that keeps your clients coming back again is likely to encourage them to order additional products and services.

4. Increase Brand Reputation

Agencies that retain their clients for longer naturally gain a better reputation in their respective markets. Earned media like testimonials, reviews, and even comments on social media allow agency marketers to spread the word about their successes. Delighted clients are more likely to take to their own online platforms to rave about how well your agency performed.

Factors like excellent service, quality, delivering on time, and communication all increase how your agency is perceived by peers and future clients.

5. Boost Future Lead Volumes

Increased positive perception combined with the comments from existing satisfied clients feeds directly back into your lead generation strategy. By focusing on good agency-client relationships, you’re now in a position to drive demand and reap the benefits in terms of growth.

Critical Elements of Any Agency-Client Relationship

It should come as no surprise to agency leaders in any industry that communication is the core of great client relationships. A 2023 survey from an agency analytics company showed that 36% of agencies stated that transparency and effective communication were the top ways to retain clients.

Consistency is another factor. Many agencies employ contractors, freelancers, and gig workers to fulfill specific roles and tasks. Disparate employees delivering different messages can confuse clients and erode trust. Agencies should invest in collaboration tools that encourage the use of shared documents, invoices, forms, and other branded assets. It’s also worth briefing contractors on corporate values, appropriate language, and communication style.

 A screenshot of Bonsai's contract creation page, helping provide consistency to improve the agency client relationship.

Bonsai’s free tools include a contract maker that anyone from freelancers to contractors can use. This makes consistency achievable for even the smallest agencies or those just starting out.

Building Meaningful Relationships With Clients: 7 Steps to Success

Understanding the importance of a great agency-client relationship is step one. Implementing steps to ensure every client feels looked after and confident in your agency’s abilities is the next critical move. These seven strategies help you create relationships that benefit all parties involved in your projects.

1. Lead Generation

The lead generation or demand generation process is the first time you communicate with clients. This might be via blogs, web content, social media, or in-person. How you present yourself at this stage is a vital foundation for future relationships.

Ensure all early-stage client communications and content align with your company’s values. Avoid the hard sell — “Tell, don’t sell” is a good axiom, but even better is “Show, don’t tell.” In other words, let your products and services speak for themselves. Share existing client testimonials, case studies, and thought-provoking expert-written content.

Agency employees at all levels should lean into the importance of the follow-up call or email. Interested parties won’t always proactively contact an agency. If you get a bite, wait an appropriate amount of time, then get in contact.

Automation is a key factor here. Agency founder Vix Reitano says, “I believe automation will be a huge trend this year.” She added, “Not in the way it has been used [before], but more for team collaboration efforts and reminders of real-time, person-to-person follow-ups.”

Combining technology with genuine human interaction makes lead generation simpler while fostering effective relationships from the earliest stage.

2. Onboarding Successful Leads

Once you have leads eager to start working with you, the onboarding process is the next opportunity to build relationships.

3. Researching Client Pain Points

Throughout the onboarding process, it’s important to take note of your client’s biggest challenges: their pain points. They may not even realize what the biggest obstacles to success are. Set up meetings with appropriate team members and ask for relevant data to really understand what’s working and what needs to change.

For example, if you run a recruitment agency, you could gather data on diversity in hiring. You might discover simple ways to adjust job postings to attract more mixed demographics. Research regularly reveals that diverse workforces lead to increased financial performance. Highlighting this win to your clients could impress them by showing you understand their pain points as well or even better than them.

4. Building a Strategy

Once you understand your client’s needs, it’s time to create a strategy. You and your client should both be happy with all the goals and aims of the project. You should also consider:

  • Timeline and deadlines
  • Key personnel and collaborators
  • Regular updates on a schedule that suits the client
  • Options to expand or adjust project scope
  • How to monitor and report upon success

This last point is critical to client satisfaction. Even if the client has a great experience throughout a project, they need a clear indication of success in order to consider repeat business. Ensure you set in place key performance indicators (KPIs) or data points and ways to report on them appropriately.

5. Putting It Into Action

A project strategy can look great on paper yet still fail to impress. This is usually down to poor in-project communication, failure to meet deadlines, or lack of flexibility in terms of project scope. The best agency-client relationships stem from adaptable agency personnel and software that connects people to project tasks.

Agencies should also be willing to pivot when things aren’t working. If a particular strategy isn’t yielding the expected results, tell the client as soon as possible. Discuss alternatives and put a new plan in place. Transparency during challenging times builds trust and shows clients that your agency isn’t afraid to try something new.

6. Monitoring and Measuring Success

All agencies need impactful ways to showcase the success of projects. One of the best ways to build meaningful agency-client relationships is to ask, early in the process, how your clients prefer to measure success.

They may prefer highly analytical reports or graphic visualizations. They might want monthly and quarterly reports, but they may also want a weekly report on certain details.

Understanding the frequency and type of data your client appreciates helps you decide how to monitor and present results. This is a critical consideration when invoicing and payment progression are reliant on client satisfaction.

7. Listening and Acting on Feedback

Feedback from the client is always essential to understand how they feel about the working relationship. You can gather this in a number of ways, using forms, surveys, or in-person meetings. If you do meet in person, ask if you have consent to record the session. You don’t want to miss anything from these sessions, as you’ll use them to hone your strategy moving forward.

Don’t wait until the very end of a project or contract to ask for feedback. If the client has encountered an issue, this could be too late to address it. Set regular feedback-gathering points throughout the term of your relationship. Don’t be afraid to gently prompt for feedback, and make it clear that you’re willing to act on any criticism to make improvements where appropriate.

Implementing the Right Technology to Support Client Relationships

You’ve seen throughout that must-have software and tools like Bonsai help grease the wheels of agency-client relationships. They aid collaboration, ensure the organization of projects, and even automate some tasks. Take a look at your agency’s tech stack and decide where it could improve your client relations.

CRM — Customer Relationship Management Systems

Your CRM should be a hub of client and project information. Many CRMs hold multiple contact details for personnel and project stakeholders. These tools may also show a timeline of project tasks and who they’re assigned to.

Some CRMs are focused more on lead generation, recording every customer contact and what was said each time. Effective records prevent spamming, ensuring leads are contacted an appropriate number of times. They can also highlight where a lead has shown interest in a particular product or service, allowing marketing professionals to take a more focused approach.

Analytics Tools

The ability to impress clients with results generally stems from the effective collation and management of data. Critical data points vary from industry to industry. Recruitment agencies may need to show cost per hire, time to hire, and onboarding time and costs. They’ll often use recruitment-specific tools like applicant tracking systems (ATS) to gather data throughout the hiring journey.

Marketing agencies will have different metrics, ranging from cost per click (CPC) for pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to conversion rate. Regardless of the KPIs used, the ability to gather and present data effectively depends on effective analytics tools.

Agencies should consider investing in data integration solutions that draw information from multiple sources. Data analytics or business intelligence (BI) tools can then sift through this data for patterns and insights. The best data tools will provide ways to visualize this data to make it accessible for clients and other agency personnel as needed.

Collaboration Tools

The best agency-client relationships come from effective collaboration. The ability to meet your clients online or in person as suits them, using the channels they’re familiar with, is a great start to this. Collaboration also means two-way feedback and being open to criticism. You should approach any requests for change with an open mind. Likewise, it would help if you were transparent with clients about what’s not working or any ideas they’ve had that won’t yield results.

Collaboration among your own teams is just as vital. When you work effectively as an organization, you present a unified presence that inspires trust. Clients may notice if there is friction within your teams. Data siloes and communication challenges will cause delays to projects and could even cause missed deadlines.

Focusing on clear channels of communication and tools that promote collaboration for everyone involved in a project is a top strategy for improving client relations.

Transparency, Collaboration, and Innovation Are the Keys to a Better Agency-Client Relationship

Clients who return to the same agency over and over do so because they’ve had a great experience. They enjoy the agency-client relationship and can clearly quantify the benefits the agency brings to their business. Agencies achieve those positive relationships via openness, clear communication, and the willingness to invest in innovative tech solutions.

Bonsai provides agencies with numerous resources and solutions, from the CRM, which keeps projects organized, to free templates, forms, and more. One reviewer called Bonsai a “wonderful tool” and highlighted the interface’s simplicity. They also noted that it included many features simply not present on other client management platforms.

The right tech stack could be the key to unlocking better agency-client relationships. To find out more about Bonsai and start a free trial, sign up for free with our simple online form.

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