4 ways agencies and clients can avoid a death match

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Agencies need to be treated like experts and live up to that level of trust

Just five years ago, online marketing was primarily email, search, and banners. But today, with mobile, social, online video, apps, RTB, etc., this industry is innovating at such a fast pace that even experts who spend their entire day focused on digital marketing are having trouble keeping up to speed. When you also factor in that most client contacts only spend a portion of their time focused on digital, the need for advertisers to rely on outside expertise is more important now than ever before.

Yet, agencies can't expect everyone to take whatever they say at face value, especially when part of a client contact's responsibility is to be risk adverse and question everything. Part of the job at an agency is not just presenting ideas, but selling them in as well. And I don't mean "selling" them in terms of "BS-ing" anyone -- you have to learn how your client best digests your recommendations and provide them in that format.

Agencies -- if you feel that your client counterpart is hesitant to immediately accept what you're saying, don't take it personally. It's probably just cautiousness stemming from their aforementioned need to be risk adverse. However, some of it also stems from the fact that many agencies seem like black boxes to advertisers. A lot of processes and knowledge is shielded from clients as things agencies might feel clients don't need to know or are too busy to take the time to understand. Unfortunately, when there's mystery involved, it can be very natural to be dubious even when there's nothing to be suspicious about. An advanced dialogue helps build trust through transparency.

To evolve the agency and client conversation, I'd like to see more leaps of faith on the client side. On the flip side, agencies, if the client does put that trust in our hands, we have to live up to our end of the bargain. We need to know our clients' businesses as well as they know their businesses and we need to bring them advanced, well conceptualized ideas that are aligned with their brand and goals. We also need to present the information with the right timing (don't bring a Q1 idea in the middle of Q3) and in a way that is very palatable for them and portable enough to pass around to their teams.



Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis April 4, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Transparency is so important. No client wants to feel like they are dealing with an agency that keeps everything in the back room. You have to walk your clients through the process, explain why you do it this way, to get them to take that leap of faith and trust your agency.