There are two important requirements for a successful marriage: finding the right person, and being the right person. Establishing successful client relationships in a digital agency is not unlike building a marriage. There needs to be a solid foundation of shared values, mutual respect, and common goals to be successful. I've experienced this first-hand -- for part of the past ten years since I started my agency, my husband and I have been business partners. We've found lessons learned in our personal lives easily translate to the professional. Here are a few secrets we've discovered that have not only been key to our marriage, but also to the relationship we have with each of our clients.
Get to know your clients like you do your spouse (with some obvious exceptions, of course). This is especially important during the "courting phase" of an agency-client relationship. When an agency and its client share core values, they have the perfect foundation for achieving significant results. If a client or agency doesn't fundamentally understand the other's business needs and process, or easily dismisses proposed solutions, that's a serious red flag. Campaign goals are achieved faster when both client and agency take the time to know and trust each other.
To live happily ever after, a married couple needs to be headed in the same direction. Writing down what you want to achieve together in life creates a roadmap, and it feels really great to be able to look back on it together and say "We did it!" Client/agency relationships need written measurable goals as well. At a high level, there should be goals that define how the relationship might evolve, whether toward an AOR agreement, acquisition deal, revenue share, or other type of partnership.
Anyone in a long-term relationship knows the vast majority of arguments present themselves because of a dissention on how to spend your joint resources. In short, people fight about money. On the agency side, money should never be a pain point. Before your campaign even starts, find consensus on a reasonable budget that will achieve goals. Then create a detailed media plan defining how much will be spent, where every penny will be allocated, and how success will be measured. Establishing processes for transparent tracking and reporting schedules will prevent unwanted surprises and virtually eliminate unexpected costs.
No relationship can survive without communication. And there's a right way to do it -- get conversations going at regular intervals to keep an open line of communication. Silence can be deadly to any relationship, personal or professional. Silent roadblocks can also kill campaigns. When you launch a campaign, if you're not talking to your client as much as you talk to your spouse, there could be serious trouble ahead. "Set it and forget it" doesn't work online. If you don't meet weekly, email daily and Skype hourly, your campaign could easily be derailed -- and you might not know until it's over.
If agencies and clients had a crystal ball, we wouldn't need each other. When your campaign doesn't perform as expected, apply the results as a learning tool for what not to do next time. Do this and you might both end up on your second honeymoon with winning results in no time.
My husband and I hold each other to one major rule: do what you say you're going to do. In our professional life, we hold each other -- and our team -- to the same expectation. And it works. In any relationship, it's important to set examples and teach people how to treat you. Goals must be achieved and deadlines never missed. Either do what you say you are going to do, or don't make the promise in the first place.
Although you may use your best friend or family as an occasional sounding board, they're not the ones who have to live with your spouse. Paying too much attention to outside opinions and not setting boundaries can destroy your relationship. The same goes for third-party vendors. Great agencies proactively create synergistic relationships by uniting client, vendors, and agency. Setting a communication hierarchy keeps everyone on track to meet deadlines and seamlessly deliver results as a team.
Love it or leave it. Whether you're the client or the agency, if you don't have the passion to always do your best, do everyone a favor and do something else.
Jennifer Uhll is the CEO and founder of Juhll Digital Agency.
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