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August 19, 2016

What My Marriage Taught Me About Client-Agency Relationships

By Devon Zanca

Recently, you may have spied some posts on the Agenda social media accounts about a wedding and wondered what all the fuss was about. Well, wonder no more. It was all about me!

It’s now been almost three months since the big day, and with all the planning and preparation behind me, (!) I’ve had some time to do a bit of thinking about marriage. Surprisingly (or maybe not) I realized that marriage is a lot like the relationships I’ve been living day-to-day at Agenda: the ones we have with our clients. Both can be challenging at times, but both can also be fun and full of mutual happiness, respect, and appreciation. After all, long-term agency relationships are marriages of ideas and hard work, built on respect and understanding.

Choosing an agency can be nerve-wracking. Much like choosing a life partner, you’re putting yourself out there; there’s lots of trust at stake — not to mention money! But when you know what you’re looking for and you stick to what matters to you, it can be easier to weed out the fakers and find the best partner.

So, what makes a great agency and client marriage?

1. Building trust through hard work

At Agenda, we know a thing or two about long-term relationships. To date, our average client tenure is around 7 years, which means we continue to work with our clients long after the first “engagement.” Our relationships last because we build them on a foundation of openness and trust (sound familiar?).

There’s no point in trying to keep secrets. From the first meeting to signing the contract and onwards, it’s important for agencies to be transparent about their own processes and their work. When you work together towards an end goal—usually a successful campaign or project—everyone should be on the same page. That openness leads to trust.

2. Not being fooled by fame and riches

While it’s nice when agencies win awards and acknowledgements for hard work, it’s more important to deliver well-crafted and effective work for clients. Kudos from a panel of judges doesn’t necessarily help clients—even if the plaques and certificates look nice on the wall. Earning that level of notoriety means taking big risks — and sometimes pushing clients out of their comfort zones. Of course there is a time and a place for pushing design and trying something new, but at Agenda, we put clients ahead of fame.

3. Communication is key

In any relationship, communicating clearly and effectively is of the upmost importance. This holds true for relationships between clients and agencies as well. In order to ensure that work runs smoothly, clients and agencies should be consistently communicating throughout the duration of a project. No one should be stewing in silence—it’s much easier to fix a problem once it is out in the open where everyone can talk through solutions. Better yet, when everyone communicates openly, potential problems are more likely to be caught before they get too big. Communication can be as simple as a daily or weekly status update, or a running call for everyone to check in. Find a pattern of communication that works best for your team and stick to it.

It may seem obvious, but it is important to remember from time to time that the relationship between an agency and a client is truly a marriage of sorts. It can be easy to get wrapped up in a “honeymoon” period at the outset of a project. At first, everyone is excited to work together and the project is fresh and fun; but it’s also essential to remain committed and stick to the things you promised each other in the beginning, especially when the going gets tough. When both sides are honest and open about their expectations, work hard to deliver the best results, and communicate clearly and often, everyone in the relationship wins.