When companies hire a marketing agency, they’re hoping that someone will view their business with as much excitement and respect as they do. The right agency knows your customers, inside and out, and feels just as strongly about the business mission as the company itself. A good agency-client relationship is a dream, but how can you know your agency is the right fit? There are five key elements of a quality agency-client relationship. If you can tick all these off your list; you know you’re with the right one.
Honesty is the cornerstone of any quality relationship, and the agency-client relationship is no different. This honesty goes both ways, and for a good reason. To get the best results from campaigns and craft meaningful marketing missions, both the agency and the client must be transparent.
On the agency-side
The client should expect that the agency will be open to the brainstorming process and what goes into compensation. There should be clear outlines, measurable benchmarks, and an open line of communication so the client feels comfortable approving, adjusting, or refusing a campaign element.
Clients should want to know that agencies have a plan and also that the plan can be tailored to a client’s specific needs. Agencies need to be upfront about what is required and manage expectations from the client.
The agency should break down the process, so that the client is aware of how each step will proceed. Clients should understand the touchpoints, and they’ll appreciate knowing exactly what to expect. Through these touchpoints, the agency can offer honest critiques of activities and provide guidance for what might fit best at each stage.
On the client-side
Clients ought to be upfront about budget options and any concerns from the start so that there are no misunderstandings. Agencies should tailor activities based on the client’s needs and expectations, so that honesty will ensure an appropriate marketing campaign from the very start.
Clients have complete freedom to be honest with the agency, but they must also follow through with that honesty. While clients must trust agency experience in marketing matters, no one knows a business like the business itself. It’s essential to be upfront about any concerns.
2. Clear and Measurable Assessments
While we’re talking about honesty, the second piece of a robust agency-client relationship involves measurable assessments at each touchpoint. These will be a significant point of communication, whether the relationship is long-term, or project based.
The long- and short-term success benchmarks will help drive each activity and help the business and the agency understand more about their ideal customer. A long-term agency-client relationship can develop from this precise understanding.
A massive part of wine business 2.0 is becoming data-driven. Measurable success benchmarks put data front and center, allowing the business to make better decisions about each marketing campaign.
Agencies that can help businesses make sense of this kind of data provide an invaluable service. Businesses can rely on the agency to have robust, data-driven practices in place to provide insights about marketing performance and a clearer understanding of the target customer.
These assessments should also include feedback from both sides on the overall performance of the agency. The marketing agency can facilitate this feedback with clear, valuable communication tools, and really listen. Both sides can make improvements and choose whether to continue the relationship.
3. A Customized Experience
One of the best ways agencies can create a stable relationship with clients is to customize each experience. This not only allows clients to feel that spark each time they work with the agency, but it allows the agency-client relationship to pivot due to outside disruptions.
In the wine industry, for example, much of the engagement is created in person. Recent events have made that difficult, but with an innovative mindset, agencies can help create a brand-new path for marketing through online avenues.
If a marketing agency can create a new, tailored experience for each customer based on , that’s a wonderful thing. If that agency takes that excitement into each new campaign no matter how long the client has been around, that’s even better.
It’s this energy that agencies devote to customers that helps facilitate a long-term relationship. Even clients who want short-term contracts may be more likely to become repeat clients with that dedication to customization.
Combined with honesty from both parties and a robust system of feedback and communication, this customization can produce some serious, deep-level work. That dedication often pays off — not only for the agency to develop repeat clients but for the client’s success as well.
4. A Spirit of Collaboration
Building a relationship with clients involves a consistent spirit of collaboration. No one has a monopoly on creativity, so establishing a collaborative relationship from the start will produce better products.
Co-creation allows business clients to take control of their marketing journeys under the experienced eye of the agency. Start-to-finish collaboration is the key to better product and far-reaching results. Clients typically agree.
This is where the magic can happen. With honest communication and a measurable set of benchmarks, providing a seat at the table can help agencies produce some of the best work clients have experienced.
When agencies first onboard clients, clear and upfront expectations should help prepare them to participate at every stage of the process. Regular touchpoints ensure plentiful communication, and time for feedback ensures that the entire agency-client relationship is built as a partnership.
During those first few meetings, building collaboration into the process is such an essential part of the other pieces of this puzzle. Clients should be open and honest if they know the marketing agency values their input, and a communication process ensures that the entire experience is tailored to meet the client’s needs.
5. Continual evolution of the customer story
Both the client and the agency should always ensure that the most critical piece — the reason the partnership exists in the first place — is an understanding of the business’s customer.
This isn’t a one-time picture. Gathering data, collaborating on campaigns, even the open and honest understanding that launches the partnership, is all in the name of defining and refining an understanding of the customer.
Clients rarely hand these insights to us on a silver platter. The agency must take the time to delve into the business’s mission and customers. Wine and Spirits is a vastly different industry from other niches; without clarity on what makes the industry tick, marketing campaigns may not land.
The onboarding process should include a deep dive into the business’s practices, challenges, and goals. From there, an understanding of the overall industry can help shed insight into missed opportunities as well as positioning.
This relationship only works if agencies understand the business, its customers, and the process of innovation within the industry. The client story could change regularly, and without this deep level understanding, agencies could miss it.
Clients appreciate agencies willing to look beyond the glory of the marketing campaign itself to put their energy into proper research. The data from measurable benchmarks and reliable research will help the customer story evolve as necessary.
How to Find the Spark
So, how can clients begin looking for the right agency? Everyone wants these five things, but building a relationship can take time — knowing that it has the right potential from the start can help prevent a lot of wasted time.
- Does the agency understand my industry? — In our opinion, a niche wine and spirits focused agency is best. The agency has already put in the work and understands the unique propositions of the wine and spirits industry.
- Are our ideas welcome? — Agencies that make collaboration an essential part of the relationship from the very first meeting are often willing to customize each experience.
- Are all costs clear? — Budgets are heavy on the mind of most clients, so transparent fees and costs are a welcome part of the relationship. If the agency isn’t willing to provide transparency about where costs are going, the relationship won’t work.
- Does the marketing agency understand the client’s definition of success? — A client may have a view of success that doesn’t align with the agency’ These misunderstandings are common, but if an agency is willing to bridge the gap and show a deeper level of understanding, that’s a sign the relationship could last.
Building a relationship with the right marketing agency
A wine marketing agency should be able to understand the unique proposition of the wine and spirits industry. Providing guidance for marketing campaigns through a spirit of collaboration can help ensure that the marketing relationship goes smoothly and lasts.
These five elements can build the kind of agency-client relationship that delivers real value. While recognition or awards are fun, a true understanding of the needs and challenges of clients is the reason the relationship exists. Take the time to put in the work, and that relationship could be a great thing.