You know what a cliché agency website looks like; menus that delicately glide in and out, the unnecessary pop culture/icon image and photos of youthful staff with synthetic grins bedecked in cookie-cutter hipster clothes (the ‘Who We Are/Meet the Team’ page is even more nauseating). Of course, the ‘Case Studies’ tab will feature the most glowing of efforts and hint at none of the huge pitfalls. It’s hard to differentiate between the quality of work that agencies actually produce. It’s pretty tricky to identify a terrible agency just from their website but this is the first port of call for most prospective clients.
However, did you know just 8% of clients are actually happy with their agencies? These relationships are as fake as those staged ‘fun’ office photos. We know a thing of two about happy clients (we would say that – we’re an agency) so if any potential clients are reading this, we’re going to detail why exactly we think we’re really helpful to collaborate with. Here are Hudson Digital’s five tips that agencies can use to stop clients dumping them and fall hopelessly in love with them instead.
1. Get as much information out of clients before planning
Clients are most likely to be frustrated at your agency when they’ve paid all this money and not received the results they expected. It’s logical to minimise any potential misunderstanding and confusions from the start. 49% of agencies think poor quality briefings negatively affect collaboration, so get this relatively straight-forward process right and you’ll have eliminated a huge potential problem.
Give your client a detailed campaign brief to fill out. It should ask for the campaign objective, the dates it’s live, images and logos to used or be created, tone of the campaign, audience targeting, etc. Make sure you have all the assets – such as email lists, images, fonts, logos, brand guidelines, etc. – you need before you start planning to skip delays at the worst times. Let your client know who needs to be involved, what they need to do and set expectations. Don’t be afraid to tell when what they’re asking for is unrealistic, explain why and negotiate a reasonable alternative. Give them a detailed timeline that shows what needs to be done by who and make sure they confirm they have gone through it.
2. Be honest and transparent – especially when things mess up
Some agencies prefer to be secretive with how they do things, preferring not to expose the magic of their inner workings. Clients don’t need to see every button you click but they will appreciate some insight into the creative and technical process, knowing that you’re knowledgeable and doing your job effectively.
It’s only natural that things will go wrong or fail to meet expectations. It’s alarming how many agencies play the blame game and never take responsibility. Even worse is the number of clients who hide failures or manipulate data to make projects look better than they are. Often, problems get worse the longer they are left unattended. If a client discovers a problem happened earlier, they will be enraged and more likely to break up with your agency. Talk to them when things go wrong. In our experience, clients love when you give plausible rationale as to why work under-performs and ways to optimise things. They may even be able to provide solutions that you were unaware of.
3. Making planning and reporting a joy
Yes, yes, I know but bear with me on this. In a perfect world, it would be the planning stages that would convince a client to choose you over another agency, rather than a cheesy website. Show your client you have put loads of thought into planning. Give them timelines, multiple campaign ideas, perhaps some estimated results, if possible. Most importantly, your plan should include SOLUTIONS. You’d be surprised at the amount of cotton waffle that agencies give unquestioning clients. Present your plan in a meeting within a well-designed and properly branded deck so the client has it on paper – lots of agencies don’t even do this but apparently that doesn’t matter if there’s a photo of the adorable office doggo on their website.
Reporting feels like a hassle but consider an attitude adjustment. Instead of a chore, look at reports as a way to tell your client how fantastic you’ve been. If the campaign hasn’t gone as well, use reports to say how smart you are for recognising what went wrong and offer helpful suggestions on how this could be fixed. Make sure you include analysis and optimisation recommendations. Too many agencies just slap the data in and leave it. That’s what software does; humans should do much more. Provide reports consistently so clients won’t have to keep chasing you or think you’re neglecting their work.
As the specialist who the client is working with, you know best about how to do thing. However, nobody knows their brand better than the client. Don’t be afraid to invite them into project brainstorms or ask them if they tried similar things in the past. Your client has experiences that can be called ‘data’. Use this rather than crawling through the dark on baseless intuition. Involving clients makes them feel valued and inspires trust. Project management software like Basecamp, Trello and Smartsheet exist to make communication easy and keep on top of tasks.
5. Be flexible with your client
Of course, you have standard processes for most things for consistency but no two clients are the same. Your clients will love you if you treat them as number one. It’s like how the more personalised something is to the user, the more likely they are to positively engage with it.
If a client wants to shift deadlines, try and accommodate them – it will make you look amazing. If it’s impossible, explain why and how much notice you would need in the future to adapt to such a change. Try and reach a fair compromise.
Sometimes clients will ask if you can do something extra. It may not be your job but take control of the client’s request if you can. It will show that you go the extra mile, can take control of responsibility and clients will see you even more favourably.
There you have it. Not so bad, right? We don’t think it’s difficult to form a trusting, collaborative and honest relationship with our clients. If every agency followed these steps, businesses would never feel doubtful about using them. We’ve found many of our own brands have previously worked with incompetent, non-communicative and down-right lazy agencies, leaving them with the impression that most are like this. They attempt to do the work themselves and end up with poor results due to lack of skills and knowledge. Follow these steps and you’ll find yourself on the path to building life-long agency-monogamous relationships with your clients. They might even get down on one knee in front of you.