The Most Critical Factor in The Agency-Client Relationship

From agency leaders and CMOs to new account managers and project managers, we are all trying to answer the same question: what is the most critical factor in the agency-client relationship? Knowing that trust is the key to a successful agency-client relationship is half the battle, but the best agency-client relationships take continued effort and execution from both sides in order to maintain that trust.

While two decades ago the average agency-client relationship lasted seven years, today most clients keep an agency for just a mere two years. Why the shift? For starters, marketing leaders are staying put in their own jobs for much shorter time frames. Brands that have constant changes at the helm often have higher agency turnover.

However, the blame doesn’t fall squarely on brands failing to retain top talent. In an era where everyone thinks that they can do it better on their own, pop-up agencies are a dime a dozen. Many of these discount “agencies” lack the systems and procedures to execute the projects that they’re winning by undercutting the competition. This leads to brands constantly churning through agencies to get the results they want at a price they can justify to their higher-ups.

At Fidelitas, we have a different process when it comes to bringing on new clients and, subsequently, new account managers. We know trust is everything, and we place a premium on character and communication skills. When we pitch for new business, we pay close attention to just who we’ll be working with on the client side. Will our primary contacts be fun and engaging to work with? Will they hold us – and themselves – to high standards for the sake of the brand we’re both working for? Likewise, a Fidelitas Account Manager must be patient, enjoy pursuing excellence in the ordinary, over-communicate, and maintain the highest level of honesty.

Clients that place their agency relationships in the hands of marketing teams that prioritize communication will see a higher return on their investment in agency services. Communication is the foundation for trust in any relationship and strong communication not only leads to better work, but to better accountability from both sides.

Pro Tip: How often are you communicating with your agency? The ideal frequency varies based on the scope of the work, but if you find yourself reading this and wondering about the last time you heard from your account manager, you’re probably not communicating enough.

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Honesty matters. Honesty is a core value for Fidelitas. When we mess up, we preach – and practice – raising our hand and owning our mistakes. We’re also candid about the experience level of the teammates executing the work for the clients and how long projects will take. Likewise, it’s critical that clients remain honest with their agencies. Why was the work sent back for another revision? What’s the hard budget for the project? What KPIs actually matter versus what will the corporate team want to see? Clients and agencies that are honest with each other will quickly build and maintain a trusting relationship.

Everyone knows that the agency has to make a fair profit, but we think a transparent, fair pricing model tied to tangible, data-driven results will continue to win clients over time. On the other side of the coin, brands that give their agencies a seat at the table when it comes to strategic decisions and trust the agency’s input will stand to gain much more out of their agency relationships than ones that don’t.

Marketing leaders that understand the importance of trust and honesty are well on their way to a successful client-agency relationship, provided that they hire an agency that’s the right fit. No matter how any of our counterparts try to reason otherwise, no agency is the right fit for every client. Likewise, no client can find their greatest success with just any agency. It’s critical for client and agency cultures to align. Misalignment of cultures is a primary cause of frayed relations between a brand and its agency.

At Fidelitas, we’re looking for clients that want a marketing partner, not a vendor. Our culture is results-driven, so while we’re more than capable of simply fulfilling requests for images and populating pay per click campaigns, we know that our greatest client wins come from relationships that treat us like a partner. That means transparency from both sides in what is and isn’t working. Marketing leaders must remember that no great agency will keep an account around for long if it’s not profitable for the agency. Likewise, shrewd clients will move quickly to cut ties with agencies that over bill, are deceptive with their pricing, or if the ROI just isn’t there. Just like any relationship, it really is a two-way street – and it all hinges on a mutual trust.

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Looking for a full-service agency you can trust? Contact Fidelitas today.

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