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During a recent client conference call, the unexpected question surfaced: “Do we make good clients?” Initially surprising, it dawned on me that the mere act of posing this question signifies the answer – absolutely, “Yes.” But why?

In the realm of agency operations, relationships with clients are pivotal. Solid client rapport is the cornerstone of a successful outcome. It necessitates mutual dedication to nurturing the partnership, fostering productivity, and achieving success together.
So, what’s the secret sauce? What sets apart clients that we enjoy collaborating with from the rest? Why do certain engagements feel more rewarding and mutually beneficial? What drives relationships to gain momentum over time?

With over 30 years of steering various client connections, here’s my take on the key attributes that define a commendable client:

Good clients say Partner, not Vendor:

Great clients seek a partnership that runs deeper than a mere transaction. For effective collaboration, comprehending the entire landscape is crucial. In the world of branding, strategic alignment between business and brand is pivotal. Exceptional clients grant unobstructed access, revealing the organization’s trajectory and aspirations. This includes access to the Executive Team; without their insight into how we contribute to the business’s future, success becomes elusive. Rather than a buyer-vendor dynamic, outstanding clients envision a partnership where success hinges on each other’s support. Agencies strive for engagements to serve as ongoing success stories and catalysts for positive change. Trust in this dynamic and lean on the support available.

Good clients make themselves available:

Remarkable clients are present and engaged. In agency relationships, consistent communication is vital. When evaluating a potential engagement, a key query revolves around the designated point of contact. Clients dedicating capable individuals or teams with sufficient influence expedite progress. Weekly status meetings may seem overwhelming initially, but experienced agencies leverage these to maintain momentum and clarity. Despite meticulous planning, the need for impromptu calls and reviews arises. With established points of contact, both sides ensure timely addressing of these needs.
To facilitate crucial decisions during pivotal project milestones, establishing a Brand Council, comprising leaders representing the organization, is advised. Balancing the Council’s time demands while allowing thorough consideration is key. Clients willing to invest time reap the greatest benefits.

Good clients embrace transparency:

Great clients dislike surprises as much as we do. It starts with a well-defined process, timeline, and agreed-upon deliverables. Setting expectations early mitigates potential grievances. Above all, good clients are realistic, comprehending the effort required for exemplary work. They ask questions, seeking understanding. We expect clients to hold us and their team accountable. Regular status calls ensure honesty, realistic goal-setting, and planning. Clear delineation of roles and responsibilities keeps projects on track in terms of time and budget. Clients who grasp the need for transparency drive realistic outcomes.

Good clients pay on time:

Clients who prioritize timely payments earn immense respect within the agency realm. Prompt payment reflects respect for the work done and solidifies trust in the relationship. When billing and payment are seamless, there’s a fluidity in progress. Agencies feel motivated to surpass expectations when they trust they’ll be compensated promptly. Remember, business thrives on relationships built on trust.

Good clients trust their agency’s process and experience:

This is pivotal. Clients who acknowledge the agency’s expertise and experience pave the way for smoother collaborations. Conflict often arises when experienced CEOs and CMOs understand the intricacies involved, seek specialized counsel, and refrain from assuming expertise. Great clients trust the process and the decades of expertise across the table. It’s not about disregarding their input, but acknowledging the wealth of experiences the agency brings. We thrive on continuous learning but have amassed knowledge from years in the field.

A few last nuggets of advice. Choose your agency wisely. Not all agencies are equal. Seek agencies that see the big picture first (Strategy) and execution (Tactics) second. Make sure they play well with others, are open to suggestions, but also know when to hold the line when experience trumps ‘a gut feeling’. Beware groups that ‘specialize’ in a single category – that way lies cut corners and unoriginal solutions that don’t deliver. And finally, choose an agency partner that sees creativity in everything. You can always ask them to dial back, but it’s much harder to push them to greatness.

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