How to Build and Sustain a Good Client Agency Relationship

One team

One of the most powerful words in the English language is ‘we’. In order to work well together you have to be in it together. We all want to see our projects be successful. To some extent, an agency needs to see themselves as members of the client’s team. When that can be achieved the passion can really kick in and great things can happen.

At the same time, I want to be clear that being on the same team does not mean that we’re all best friends. It’s easy to allow years of working with a client to lead to a more relaxed relationship, which can lead to relaxed process and even standards… not good. A good team has structure and rules that keep things running smoothly. Stepping back once in a while and examining how the relationship has become stronger or weaker is a must in order to keep things on track.

Connect

It’s amazing how cold a relationship can be in this age of email and conference calls. While email is a great communication tool it can end up creating a lot of back and forth messages, things can be unclear or misinterpreted, and that can lead to unnecessary frustrations. More often than not, a quick call can clear things up and help to keep a project moving in the right direction.

Face to face meetings are still the best in my book. You can hear tone of voice, see a person’s face and have a stronger connection as a team. We have several designers that work in different parts of the country and we’ve found that video calls are a great way to still be able to have that kind of connection.

We all have pressure

Let’s start this from the agency side. We, as designers, project managers, etc, need to remember that our clients have pressures beyond the specific project that we are working on. A client may be harsh or miss their deadline for feedback, but there’s generally a larger picture that we don’t see. While venting about this type of thing happens, it can become toxic. Many times there are things beyond the client’s control that lead to more edit cycles or project delays. They are doing their job the best they can.

From the client side of this equation it’s important to understand that we don’t see the other pressures you’re dealing with. When possible, help us to better understand how your team is structured, how they tend to work and how much else you are juggling. Good communication can help remove the small mistakes that can seem to add so much aggravation when we’re stressed. We’re here to help.

Trust

We all make mistakes. Trust is not about being perfect. It’s about ownership. It’s about finding solutions when problems arise vs. pointing fingers. Both sides need to earn the trust of the other. Make your deadlines, set clear expectations, constantly communicate, and be real. When you can do that, the team can focus on the projects and goals at hand knowing that everyone is backing each other up.

Once you have that trust, keep it. As humans we see patterns. When the pattern is success and clear communication we maintain that trust. At the same time, no one is perfect. Mistakes happen now and again. Focus on finding a solution and showing that you’ve made adjustments to avoid making a similar mistake in the future

Enjoy the process

Days and weeks fly by and it’s easy to get to a point where you’re just churning out work. Let’s face it – sometimes it has to be done, but the key is to recognize when this is happening and adjust. A big part of successful projects is the process and the journey.

To ensure success, an agency needs to clearly set expectations for what a project’s process should be so that the entire team gets the most out of it. When the team understands the key steps and what is expected of each player the focus can stay where it should, on having fun creating solutions that meet or exceed project goals.

An agency needs to clearly set expectations for what a project’s process should be.

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