7 Ways to Build a Strong Agency-Client Relationship
When it comes to working with clients, the most important thing to remember is that it’s a relationship that should last for many years. And like any good relationship, it takes work, communication, and a lot of compromise.
In this guide, I’ll show you different ways to build strong agency-client relationships by finding ideal customers, setting up an agency onboarding process, and managing your team efficiently.
What is the agency-client relationship?
The relationship between an agency and its client is tricky to define, as there are many moving pieces to consider. Simply put, it’s the partnership between both parties, that forms from the moment a lead becomes a client.
This bond is unique because it’s both professional and personal. After all, you’re working with a person or company to promote their business—and their achievements lead to your success.
It’s a delicate balance, but when done right, it can be incredibly rewarding for both.
How to get things started on the right foot
It’s not a secret that first impressions count, whether it’s for a job interview, or an agency onboarding a new client. According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, the reason for first impressions being so important is that humans form two opinions when they meet someone new:
How trustworthy and warm a person is, and
how competent and strong they are.
For agencies, the second point is crucial. Many invest a lot of time and effort into making a splash when it comes to first impressions: from the way they build their website to explaining services all the way to the checkout process. Everything should be clear without a single shred of doubt or concern raised.
And then there’s the onboarding, which is an entire process that needs to be defined, set up, and refined to build a strong client relationship from the beginning.
Ways to build a good client-agency relationship
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here because every agency and every client are unique. However, there are a few key characteristics that are bound to form a long-lasting bond between an agency and their customers.
Over a period of 20 years, taking into account nearly 23,000 agency evaluations, Aprais has developed a database containing insights about what it takes to create a solid client relationship.
Here are the seven most important aspects (according to agency clients) along with ways to include them into your operations:
1. Communicate well
The agency engages in regular dialogue to ensure facts are shared in a timely fashion.
This one should come as no surprise—communication is critical in any relationship, professional or personal. In fact, it’s often cited as the number one factor in a successful relationship with clients. They expect you to keep them in the loop and update them regularly on the status of their projects.
The easiest way to make sure you’re meeting (and exceeding) your clients’ expectations is to establish a clear communication plan from the beginning. This should include regular check-ins, clear guidelines regarding tasks and responsibilities, and a method for quickly resolving any misunderstandings.
To avoid any issues, a single point of truth such as Service Provider Pro can keep your clients in the loop about everything that is going on. The software also makes it easy to reach out to you when in doubt, download a deliverable, and approve project changes.
2. Be functional
The agency displays the competence to do the day-to-day work.
A strong client-agency relationship is built on a foundation of competence—the ability to do the day-to-day work required to deliver results.
In order to accomplish that, build a team that is skilled and experienced in the areas you need them to be. On top of people doing certain tasks, you could place account managers who nurture your clients, forming great relationships. Besides the human touch for your services, put systems and processes in place that allow your team to work efficiently and effectively.
What are those exactly? Some agencies still rely on outdated software, such as Trello and Email, making it hard to get an overview of the tasks nearing a deadline. Combine your data instead into a single management tool that your team and clients have access to, allowing them to track all relevant metrics.
With Service Provider Pro, you can stay on top of your team’s efficiency thanks to built-in features such as task due dates, project intake forms, and team notes.
3. Set goals
The agency has clear objectives are in place, information is shared, and success is measured.
In order to achieve a successful agency-client relationship, both sides need to have a clear understanding of the objectives and KPIs. These need to be realistic and achievable, as well as aligned with the client’s business goals. And, you should be able to measure your progress and prove to clients your success.
With SPP, it’s easy to embed beautiful reports into your client portal. This gives your clients visibility into their project’s progress and allows them to see how you’re performing against the goals you’ve set.
4. Be resilient
The agency can withstand and bounce back from a crisis.
Like any relationship, the partnership with your client will go through its ups and downs. There will be disagreements and challenges—it’s how you handle these bumps in the road that will determine the success of the relationship.
Clients expect your agency to be able to handle adversity and continue to deliver results, even when things get tough. If you do, the client satisfaction will speak for itself. You’ll be rewarded with more revenue thanks to your customer purchasing new services. You might even be referred to other business partners through word of mouth—all thanks to your relationship management skills.
5. Build trust
The team is trusted to deliver and behaves with integrity.
Trust is essential in any relationship. Your clients need to know that you have their best interests at heart and that you’re working hard to achieve their objectives.
This trust needs to be earned. It doesn’t happen overnight. Once it’s there, though, it’s the glue that will hold both parties together, even in tough times.
SPP can help you build trust with your clients by providing them with a transparent, easy-to-use platform with robust security features. Everything from billing to file sharing is handled within the platform, so your clients can be confident that their data is safe and secure.
Making a great first impression is especially important when you onboard a new client. Thanks to the white label capabilities, your agency’s credibility will also be boosted.
6. Be accountable
The team sets and takes responsibility for actions.
Any partnership is built on accountability—both from the agency and the client. Your clients need to know that you’re taking responsibility for your actions and that you’re responsible for the results you deliver.
The same goes for the client—they need to be accountable for their part in the relationship. This includes things like providing timely feedback, being available when you need them, and making decisions in a timely manner.
Grow your industry knowledge
With SPP, you can easily hold your team accountable thanks to a detailed log history. Almost every action a team member takes is tracked.
7. Challenge yourself
Uses initiative to challenge the status quo and does not allow conflict to go unaddressed.
If you’re running a marketing agency, chances are high you’ll need to show willingness to challenge the status quo and push boundaries. Your clients might not be interested in following the same boring marketing strategies as everyone else, especially start-ups. If they’re willing to let you run experiments, you should be able to come up with new ideas that will help the client achieve their objectives.
With that said, be prepared to have difficult conversations when necessary, as you might not always see eye-to-eye. Communicating with clients effectively should make them understand that you both have a common goal in mind, namely making this partnership last for years to come.
The bad client problem
So far, we’ve talked about things that you (as an agency owner) can do to foster a productive, long-term relationship with your clients.
There’s a problem, though. You can execute every tip on this list to a tee and still wind up with relationships that feel like a constant battle. Why is that? Because at the end of the day, you can’t control your clients. You can only control your own actions and reactions.
Some clients are just bad at being clients. It’s as simple as that. They don’t hold up their end of the bargain, and the relationship falls apart. The only thing you can do to avoid this is learn to spot bad clients while they’re still leads.
Start building stronger agency-client relationships today
If you want to build stronger, more productive bonds with your customers, start by implementing the tips and strategies in this guide—it’s well worth the effort.
Through critical thinking about the way your agency interacts with clients, you can set the tone for a more positive, productive relationship from the very beginning. At the same time, if you are proactive and communicative, you’re able to avoid misunderstandings and conflict—and ultimately keep the client happy.
Always remember: you can’t control your clients or their actions. Focus on what you can do to foster a better relationship.
And if that doesn’t make a difference, move on and don’t look back.