9 Keys to Keeping the Agency-Client Relationship on Track

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Agency-client relationships that aren’t working well tend to decline over time. Occasionally, an agency gets fired out of the blue, perhaps over a single, major mishap.

A tweet that compromises a brand’s reputation or a major trends article that names all of a client’s competitors but leaves your client out could be grounds for abrupt dismissal.

Generally, though, an agency-client relationship disintegrates bit-by-bit vs. in one fell swoop.  Things work much the same way as they do in our personal relationships. Friendships and oftentimes romantic relationships break down over the course of weeks, months and years. People and organizations sometimes simply grow apart.

Many experienced professionals will see a relationship train wreck coming from miles away.  In some cases, even though the train may have left the station, earnest efforts to restore the relationship may work. In other cases, however, agency personnel can become tone-deaf when it comes to the health of their client relationships.  And often find themselves in a “too little too late” scenario. This can happen when the agency team takes a client for granted and puts out minimum effort, or gets too busy with bigger clients, or agency employee turnover disrupts the continuity of a sustained program. 

Having survived dozens of agency-client relationships over the years — and in some cases learning a lesson or two the hard way — and seeing we’re closing in on the end of one year and beginning another (when organizations are starting to consider the health of their agency relationship), I’m sharing my keys for avoiding an agency-client train wreck.

9 key agency-client relationship questions

  1. Does your agency team know your business, markets and customers well enough to represent you in the real world?
  2. Do your agency account team leaders understand your internal pressures or do they only see the world through one lens — theirs?
  3. Is your agency team visible and communicating with you enough? If not, why not?
  4. Do you think your agency team is too busy working on other accounts or too busy out trying to win new ones?
  5. Is your business important enough to them?
  6. When do you see or hear from the senior-most agency executives — only when there’s a problem or only when there’s good news to share, or on a frequent basis?
  7. Are the agency’s senior client service pros truly engaged with your business, in the trenches with the account team generating ideas and creating insights to propel your communications program forward?
  8. Is your agency listening to you or do they insist on doing things only their way and have a hissy fit when you insist on an alternative approach?
  9. Does your agency hold itself accountable by following through on its commitments or has accountability waned since the early days of engagement?

What would you add to the list?  And good luck with end year assessments!

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