Perhaps nothing signals the impending end to the agency-client relationship more than a client’s belief that the ad agency does not really understand them. If the agency’s work is not reflecting what the client knows and believes about their brand, then the relationship will not last long.
Since the client’s perception will define the business relationship’s longevity, managing the client’s perception of how your ad agency understands their brand and its evolution is vital to successful client retention. A proactive agency should never get to the point where a perceived misunderstanding of the brand becomes an engagement-ending event. To stop this from happening to you, focus on these three critical practices – achieving pre-engagement clarity, managing the account management, and regular business check-ins.
Key Practice #1 – Achieving pre-engagement clarity
Understanding and managing the client’s beliefs and expectations starts before the engagement gets underway. Initial discussions with the client (even as a prospect) should be driven by the need to allow the agency to fully understand the client’s wants and needs, and more importantly to get specific buy-in on statements back to the client about their goals and how success will be measured. Pre-engagement clarity involves three separate components:
- Brand situational awareness – a solid understating of what the client believes about their brand – past and present.
- Brand AND Business objectives – what does the client want to see happen with their brand as far as the evolution of its message and reach? And just as importantly, what does the client want to see as far as business outcomes if the brand objectives are achieved? The differences between these two sets of objectives, and the relationship between them, are critical for the agency to understand and to communicate back to the client.
- Measuring success – how will success on Brand and/or Business objectives be measured? What measures can be used and how will the data be effectively gathered and processed?
Do you disagree with what the client believes about their brand? Maybe you think they are not reaching the audience they believe they are, or that their unique value proposition is not unique enough. Now is the time to express concerns and ask pointed, clarifying questions. Regardless of how you get there, achieving pre-engagement clarity in all three of these areas is necessary to start the relationship with laser focus and a solid alignment. While these understandings may evolve as the engagement goes on, if you miss the opportunity to get into lock-step at the outset the client may not give you the chance to course-correct as you go.
Next, read about managing the account management…