What a strong client-agency relationship should look like

Marketing successes are largely reliant on a strong client-agency relationship. Sounds obvious, right? Well, not necessarily.

See, sometimes in the pursuit of asserting creative excellence, agencies forget they are more than just a vendor and that the client is not just a profit to be made. Behind both businesses — client and agency — are people who thrive off genuine relationships.

And in order to have a respectable business, client relationships have to be treated just like any other relationship we have in our lives. We need to communicate, understand and trust one another.

Understanding your client

This is practically considered the first date. When you first meet with a prospective client, you, as the agency, go into it wanting to know everything.

Do you share similar ideals? Who have they worked with before? Is this industry one you, as an agency, can represent well? You want to know all that you can about their industry, their competitors and how they’ve operated in the past.

Taking time to know and understand the different facets of their business is a must in order to become a long-term partner. By showing a genuine interest in who clients are, they will see you as more than just a business. They’ll see you as people who are worthy of their time.

Communication is, in fact, key

You would be surprised how poor client-agency communication can be (and usually is).

And there’s no surprise that some of the best agency-to-client relationships thrive because of, well, communication.

The more communication between agency and client, the more honest and straightforward the relationship becomes. Only updating a client once a month about project progression? Change that to once a week. When there is a big gap between times of communication, issues and dissatisfaction come into play. However, being transparent with a client on a regular basis allows both the agency and the client to shed light when issues arise or when a change of plans needs to occur.

Remember: There is no such thing as communicating too much, too often. Same goes for clients, too. Email, call and, if acceptable, text whenever pertinent information comes into play. Has there been a change of plans? Are new team members working on the project? Being proactive with your client will create a strong relationship between both parties, making it easier to complete projects together in a productive way.

Mike Walbert, Susan Ross and Annemarie Dodenhoff discuss an advertising campaign

Your word is your bond (for real)

Saying and doing are two very different things in the business world. Having a client believe your words is wonderful; delivering the promises you made is even better.

By doing what you say you will do, clients will look to agencies every time they are in need of a new project because they know you’ll deliver. Go above and beyond to make clients satisfied and they will continue seeking agency services.

There will be times when things don’t necessarily go as planned, as unexpected obstacles can pop up. The key is to always keep clients in the loop as to what is going on. Explain issue fixes, and what steps will be taken to prevent it from happening again. Most reasonable clients will understand.

Oh, and clients need to bring their own open, clear communication skills to the table, too. It’s not just on the agency.

Bring your ‘A-game’ every time

As an agency, it is natural to work with several types of clients in need of different services. Regardless of their retainer or project fee, clients need to be treated like they are your top priority.

It doesn’t matter if clients are small businesses or Fortune 500 companies; they should always receive standout service. By focusing on individual clients with the same intensity, you will provide your best work and your clients will feel like they are working with an incredible partner.

Never treat clients differently under any circumstances. Always take into consideration that your clients may begin referring you to potential clients. At SWB&R, we have a long history of clients referring us to other companies. We also work with some current clients who were receiving shabby treatment, shoddy communication and lackluster creative.

Wouldn’t you rather be 100 percent positive clients know you’re a reputable agency worth doing business with? By bringing your “A-game” every single time, you are positioned well to leave a positive impression and develop a deeper relationship.

Patience, not persistence

Nothing is worse than trying to force a relationship with someone when there is clearly no chemistry. The same applies with client-agency relationships.

When taking on new clients, be patient in building a business relationship. From clients’ perspectives, the last thing they want is to be bombarded with disingenuous banter. Like anyone who is building a relationship with someone new, they will see right through the act. Be yourself. Be genuine. Be cool.

No amount of great work will be respected if the people behind it are complete jerks. And no amount of people skills will be a substitute for great work. Finding a balance between a solid working relationship and solid work is key for both client and agency.



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Ernie Thomas



Advertising is in Ernie’s DNA as he’s a third-generation family member to join the business his late grandfather founded. With that pedigree comes an almost six sense of identifying the “it factor” needed to create campaigns that spark customers to action. Ernie (or ET) uses his outgoing personality to connect with clients to build strong collaborative relationships. He digs deep to uncover new opportunities that will make a measurable difference for each client’s business. A graduate of Eastern University and Saint Joseph’s University (MBA), he has the book smarts and experience to elevate brand communications with strategies that challenge the status quo. He’s always guiding Team SWBR toward the correct target audiences, smartest campaign messages, right digital channels and best traditional tactics suited to boost sales.

When he’s not working, Ernie enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s also an avid golfer still searching for his first hole-in-one.