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The Ins and Outs of Client-Agency Relationship

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Updated on:
February 18, 2024
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For any marketing agency, having a partnership-like relationship with clients is all that matters. If the client and agency work together in harmony, all projects will likely be a success. Sadly, according to a survey, only 56% of clients feel satisfied with the relationship with their agency.

In most cases, a client-agency relationship turns sour when expectations aren’t met. This guide explores client-agency relations and provides tips for helping them thrive.

What a Client-Agency Relationship Is All About

Instead of building an onsite marketing team from scratch, brands prefer hiring agencies to take over all their marketing work. This is a plus as it can save on time and resources. Besides, agencies specialize in marketing and have the skills and cutting-edge tools to meet the client’s expectations.

For this relationship to start off on the right foot, the client and the agency have to play their roles effectively.

What Is Expected of the Client?

For an agency to carry out its marketing work successfully, the client should adopt the following roles:

  • See that the agency understands the business: In any case, the client will always know their business more than anyone else. During the onboarding process, they assist the agent in understanding their brand, target audience, and industry.
  • Count on the agency: The client should trust the agency and give access to the confidential information when required. Moreover, they shouldn’t interfere with their operations or micromanage their work.
  • Give out the necessary resources: The client must give the agency a budget allocation and access to relevant data for them to start working on the agreed-upon strategy successfully.
  • Provide timely approval and honest feedback: In any relationship, people are likely to have different opinions. To avoid bumps along the way, the client should always give constructive feedback on time to ensure the agency’s work aligns with the vision.
  • Disburse payment on time: If the agency is upholding their end of the bargain, the client should pay their invoices on the agreed time.

What Is Expected of the Agency?

For an agency to execute its duties successfully, they have to carry out the following roles:

  • Getting familiar with the client’s marketing objectives: Before getting into the marketing campaign details, an agency should understand the client’s goals. It should also learn about what the client expects from the relationship.
  • Hire experts: To keep all clients at the top of the ladder, an agency will need a team with the relevant skills and knowledge.
  • Give honest feedback: The agency should regularly send the client reports covering progress toward key performance indicators (KPIs) and qualitative feedback.
  • Write everything down: The agency should always ensure all work agreed on is put in writing. This will ensure each party has a reference and is on the same page at any given time.

Phases of a Client-Agency Relationship

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A client-agency relationship goes through various stages and requires both time and effort.

Phase 1 – Prospecting

Much like in the dating world, both the client and the agency must check if they’re a good fit for each other. Prospecting forms the foundation of a good client-agency relationship and collaboration.

During this stage, ask questions. During this period, you can ask as many questions about the agency as possible. This helps you dig deeper into whether you have related core values and if you have the resources to afford the agency’s services.

Phase 2 – Bringing the Client’s Business into the Fold

Integrating the client into the agency is also called onboarding. It involves both parties signing a contract for the work to begin. The agency then incorporates the client’s business into its workflow and clearly defines the objectives agreed upon.

Phase 3 – Understanding the Client’s Campaign Goals

In this stage, the agency team does an in-depth analysis of the client’s business. The team closely examines areas such as competitors and stress points, the client’s marketing assets, the brand, and goes over raw data.

All the insights put together from this process guide the agency in coming up with an advertising plan that suits the client’s business.

Phase 4 – Creating a Roadmap

The agency now creates an extensive marketing strategy that is tailored to address the needs of the client’s business and tables proposals for discussion and evaluation. Some of the most important components of the strategy are KPIs and deliverables.

They allow the client and agency to track and measure the performance of the marketing campaign.

Phase 5 – Actualizing of the Advertising Strategy

Once the client accepts the campaign plan, the agency rolls it out on the agreed-upon channels. Typically, executing the marketing strategy entails generating content for social media platforms, launching email marketing campaigns, managing social media accounts, and collecting data.

Phase 6 – Measuring Performance

Evaluating the campaign performance comes after implementing the marketing strategy for a set period. Both the client and the agency analyze the data and metrics collected against the preset goals and objectives. By doing so they are able to identify successful areas and those that require more improvement.

Phase 7 – Renewing or Terminating of the Work Relationship

Deciding whether to renew or end the collaboration is the last stage in a client-agency relationship. Both parties take time to evaluate the results of the advertising campaign. They might opt to extend the contract if they are mutually content with the outcome of the collaboration. The client can also part ways with the agency if they aren’t satisfied with the results.

Key Ingredients of a Good Client-Agency Relationship

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For a client-agency relationship to run smoothly, it must have the following aspects.

Deep Understanding of Each Other’s Business

Both the client and the agency need to have a firm grasp of the party’s business. In this case, it will be easier for them to resolve issues, complete marketing initiatives with greater satisfaction, and build lasting relationships. Furthermore, it will help set realistic expectations on either side.

On the one hand, the client needs to know the agency’s timelines, processes, and outcomes. This way, they can find another agency to work with should these fail to align with their business needs.

On the other hand, the agency should know how to tailor its services better to match with the client’s industry and business goals. If they don’t understand the client’s business, the agency might fail to map out marketing campaigns to the client’s desired objectives. It’s no surprise that a survey shows 80% of businesses prefer hiring an agency that fully understands their operations.

Clear Communication

Though clear communication sounds obvious, it’s one of the elements that strengthen a client-agency relationship. Each project should have an in-touch point where the agency sends an update to the client. Doing so enables clients to clarify points, ask questions, and propose changes earlier on rather than when the project is complete.

To keep communication flowing for all clients, an agency can look for a reliable crm" id="">Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like Bonsai. With a client portal, you can manage all communication with clients from a central place. Besides making communication easier, it keeps a history of all conversations should they be needed in the future.

A Collaborating Spirit

A spirit of collaboration in a client-agent relationship goes beyond mere cooperation. It involves sharing ideas, leveraging on each other’s strengths, and working together towards similar goals. Using this approach from start to finish gives clients control of their marketing projects under the watchful eye of experienced professionals.

However, for collaboration to flourish, both the client and the agent should respect each other’s perspectives. The agency should acknowledge the client’s understanding of their domain and the client the agency’s expertise in marketing. Each party should also be flexible and open to exploring new ideas, modifying strategies, and pivoting when necessary to respond to changing circumstances.

A Laid-Out Roadmap

A laid-out roadmap paints a clear picture of what the agency will be working on to achieve the desired goals. It also shows the resources that will be needed. This way, it’s easy for the client to understand where they’re going and what the results are going to be. During execution, clear timelines and deadlines ensure the client and the agency work harmoniously.

Client Success

Ultimately, the aim of a client-agency relationship should be results. The client should be able to record growth in terms of leads, conversions, and sales, depending on their goals. They should see how the agency is using resources to help their business grow. Though the agency might experience failures along the way, it shouldn’t be a recurring situation. When projects are successful, the client will naturally entrust more projects to the agency.

Types of Client-Agency Relationships

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Client-agency relationships can be complex if they’re too formal. Be that as it may, watching how your agency relates with brands for a certain period can tell you whether the relationship is okay or not. Generally, client-agent relationships can fall into either of the following categories:

  • Partnership: A partnership-relationship exists when both the client and the agency enjoy working together. It allows them to collaborate and work on the same goals and solves problems that might arise. Although this relationship yields the best results, it’s the least common arrangement.
  • Firm but fair: If your agency has a firm but fair relationship, you probably don’t know a thing about the client beyond the scope of work. This relationship is too professional and formal. Nonetheless, it allows the parties to respect each other’s boundaries and fulfill their end of their bargain.
  • Too close: A too-close client-agency relationship provides a warm working environment. At some point, the client views the agency as part of their business and vice versa. Though this relationship produces commendable results, it might create bias when it comes to performance reviews and fee negotiations.
  • Socially distant: In a socially distant relationship, the client is over-protective of their business. Typically, they only give the agency the information they need for a given task. As a result, there is no teamwork. Furthermore, the agency might fail to deliver the desired results because they don’t fully know the client’s business.
  • Taskmaster: In this kind of relationship, the client prioritizes delivery more than quality. Usually, the client doesn’t stick to the agreed scope of work. They can phone the agency and demand a given task to be completed at a moment’s notice. Unless the client changes, this type of relationship might not last as it prevents the agency from concentrating on the agreed work.
  • Master servant: This kind of relationship exists when the client has little or no flexibility on their projects. They are so attached to one point of view, they won’t allow the marketing agency to use their expertise to polish the project. It results in sub-optimal performance.
  • Broken: When a relationship gets to this stage, it’s better to terminate it. Technically, the client and the agency won’t agree on anything. In this case, no good results can come from this relationship. The client might even start doing their own marketing ads.

Importance of Having a Good Client-Agency Relationship

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A good client-agency relationship represents a win-win situation for both sides. The agency’s marketing success translates to more profits for a client’s business. As such, a healthy relationship between the two parties is crucial to achieving set goals.

Here are some other factors that help a good client-agency relationship to flourish.

Fostering Trust

Like many other relationships, clients and agencies need trust to thrive. A good relationship helps to create a rapport and build trust between a client and the agency they are contracting. Clients can trust agencies to have their best interests at heart in terms of service delivery and maintaining the confidentiality of their data.

Allowing Communication to Flow Smoothly

Successful partnerships bloom with effective communication. In this case, a good client-agency relationship ensures there are open communication lines. This results in a better understanding of expectations, goals, and timelines, as well as honest reporting of results on both ends.

Efficient Teamwork

A good all-around relationship encourages both parties to be more efficient in their work processes. Clients tend to become more proactive in supporting marketing agencies to implement tasks while the latter provides high-quality, result-driven services.

Building Long-Term Investment

As an agency, having a good relationship with a client is a long-term investment. Happy and content clients will continue contracting you with more business or give referrals, which means more revenue for your agency. In turn, this helps to elevate your reputation as a marketing and advertising hub.

Creating an Avenue for Innovation and Creativity

A healthy relationship between clients and their marketing agencies inspires creativity. Agencies are bound to be more innovative and creative in brand campaigns when they have their clients’ backing and support. Likewise, clients are open to risks and new ideas when they have trusting agency partners.

Tips for Building and Maintaining Your Dream Client-Agency Relationship

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Building and maintaining a good client-agency relationship is paramount if you want your business to thrive in the market. After all, a poor client-agency relationship means a bad reputation, no customer retention, no growth, and no results. Nonetheless, building a good business relationship is easier said than done.

Prepare a Relationship Map

A relationship map gives a visual representation of connections, interactions, and changes in the client-agency relationship. It can improve the relationship in many ways. For instance, it helps you identify the stakeholders in the client’s business involved in marketing decisions. With this information, you can tailor communication and engagements to the right people.

By channeling communication to the right person, you show the client that you have a deeper understanding of their business. Moreover, you build trust and create an avenue for showing you are interested in helping the client succeed.

Create a Client Onboarding Process

The onboarding process is the period between when a client says they would like to work with you and the start of the actual work. During this time, you want to make the client feel valued and confident in their decision to work with your agency. Since you’ll be dealing with multiple clients, having a laid-out onboarding process goes a long way in ensuring each of them gets the best experience.

For that reason, you might want to:

  • Send the clients a welcome kit
  • Schedule a kick-off call
  • Explain your scope of work and deliverables
  • Provide onboarding documents such as forms, questionnaires, and brief templates
  • Set up communication channels
  • Offer ongoing support

Aim to Cultivate a Partnership Relationship

If you treat your clients like a business, your relationship will be too formal and purely transactional. Similarly, making your relationship too casual might leave room for unmet expectations and miscommunication.

The right way to treat your clients is like partners. This way, there will be a balance between work and personal relationships. As a result, you’ll be able to work as a team, respect each other’s boundaries, and deliver results.

Be Empathetic, Not Defensive

A client might choose to work with an agency for different reasons. Some might be seeking to increase sales and generate more leads and conversions. Unfortunately, despite your efforts to carry out campaigns on their behalf, they might fail to see tangible results.

When they complain, you should let them explain their concerns. Afterward, position yourself as a part of their business and suggest some proposals like working with the sales team.

Evaluate Client Relationship as a Team

It’s your marketing team that sends reports to clients, asks questions, and gives clarification to them on a daily basis. They understand what kind of standing your relationship is on with clients better than anyone. Plan regular meetings where every member of the team shares the relationship status of the client they’re working with. Make the floor open and honest so that the team can communicate without being judged.

A Good Client-Agency Relationship Requires Effort

Marketing agencies have become too many in the market. If an agency wants to always have its plate full, it must create a good relationship with incoming and existing clients. However, there’s so much that goes into building and maintaining such a relationship. That’s why agencies need to have great strategies for interacting with clients from the first meeting to the completion of projects.

Equally important,, you must have the necessary tools to make the client management process easier. A tool like Bonsai’s software for agencies can come in handy, as it allows you to do all client management work from a central point. You can manage projects, clients, finances, and collaborate with teams. Reach out to the Bonsai team for more information.

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