The ad industry is famous for many things: great creative ideas, new technology, organic culture, and hip people. All of these are necessary to succeed in our highly competitive industry, but none of them is as important as the relationship between the agency personnel and the client team. Without a trusting relationship with the client, even the best creative ideas will miss the mark. A strong relationship leads to collaboration, risk taking, and ultimately breakthrough results.
Both the client and the agency want to work with someone that trusts them and has their best interest at heart. The trust needs to start from the RFP -- or first piece of project work -- and continue to grow over the length of the entire relationship. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is to always be authentic. Be honest about everything, from your agency capabilities to your dedicated team. More often than not, misrepresenting either of these factors leads to two things: missing the mark on a metric, and/or losing the trust of a client before you even get through the first project. We have heard time and time again how thankful clients are when we don't bait-and-switch the "A" team -- who pitched the work -- with a different team that ends up servicing the work. We also hear how much they appreciate us being upfront about our lack of expertise in something. This allows the agency to remain confident that they are delivering the highest quality of work, while the client can be assured that the agency hasn't taken on more than they can handle.
As a trusted partner, the agency needs to keep the client up to speed on the latest marketing trends and technologies. The more educated the client is, the more open they will be to taking risks in their advertising efforts. One way to bring all of this information to your busy client is to host a quarterly innovation day. The agency can share competitive industry and market insights, as well as invite handpicked vendors -- from conferences, industry news, and lunch-and-learns -- to present relevant capabilities to the client. This positions the agency in a place of leadership, while setting the stage for stimulating discussions and brainstorms that lead to breakthrough work.
Not every account allows for the resources to go above and beyond the standard business-as-usual deliverables. However, agencies need to invest internally to ensure that the team continues to grow and push their clients to think beyond the task at hand. Internal time allows the agency to concept without guardrails and come up with big, bold ideas that push far beyond the client's standard marketing efforts, all with the hope that the client will buy into this new way of building immersive, meaningful experiences for their consumers. A client who trusts their agency to have a deep knowledge of their brand, industry, and opportunities will be more receptive to out-of-the-box thinking, and ultimately more likely to take a risk in trying something new.
A solid relationship breathes life into creative projects, facilitates industry education, and encourages risk taking. In an industry preoccupied with shiny objects, building real relationships is one thing that will set you apart and create truly revolutionary work.
Debbie Tung is the VP of account services at Questus.
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