10 steps to Nirvana in the digital agency-client relationship

You’ve selected your digital agency and now you’re ready to get down to business. So what’s the best way to set your new partnership up for success?

Marty Drill

By Marty Drill, 4 minute read

Like most relationships, the agency-client union is one that generally begins in a spirit of optimism. The handshake that seals the deal is a symbol of promise – a hope that the partnership will give rise to an endless stream of winning outcomes. And that the moment you’re pronounced Agency and Client will be the beginning of a tale of Happily Ever After.

We’re not saying fairytales don’t happen, but the reality is usually a little more like, well… reality. Good relationships take effort. They also take a good dose of communication, understanding and trust.

Client relationships are something we work really hard on at Luminary, and after 17 years in the business, we figure we’ve learnt a thing or two about how to make them work. Here are some pearls of our collective wisdom on how to get the most out of your digital agency.

1. Be clear on the scope of the project

Before you start to discuss a project with your agency, make sure your internal stakeholders are on the same page about the scope and objectives of the exercise. Your agency can help you flesh out the detail but it’ll save a lot of time and unnecessary expense if the main objectives are determined from the outset. Having a well thought-out brief is a good starting point to ensure your project is adequately scoped.

2. Be realistic

Amazon, eBay and LinkedIn weren’t built in a day, and nor were they built on a bargain basement budget. Keeping your expectations in check and accepting the guidance of your agency on realistic budgets and turn

around times is vital to the success of your project. 

3. Assign a primary point of contact

Appoint one main person within your organisation to liaise with your agency. This will ensure the agency always knows who to approach when they’re looking for direction or sign off. It also means they’ll be able to use their time progressing your project, rather than navigating multiple, and sometimes conflicting, messages from different members of your team.

4. Plan out the project with your agency 

Sit down with your agency in the early stages of your project and set out the key deliverables and timeframes. At this stage it’s also useful to outline reasonable expectations for feedback and approval turnaround times, as well as any critical deadlines or planned leave for your key stakeholders so the agency can work with you to accommodate these. 

5. Communicate your reporting obligations

Your agency should be willing to tailor their progress updates to a form and frequency that fits your needs. For example, if you have to produce a fortnightly report to communicate the project’s progress, let your agency know so they can modify the timing and content of their communications to assist.

6. Keep things moving 

Try to respond to requests without delay, or communicate with the agency when that’s not possible. If you need more time for feedback, or to sign off on a particular stage of the project, let them know as soon as you can. Keeping your agency in the loop about what’s going on from your end means they’re in a better position to manoeuvre resources or activities to minimise project delays. 

7. Trust your agency

A good agency wants to get you the best possible result, but to do that they need to know about your business, your motivations and your risk tolerance. So the more transparent you can be about these things, the better. Try to also keep an open mind about the solution – trust the agency’s expertise and be open to new opportunities. Equally, don’t be afraid to challenge them if something doesn’t feel quite right.

8. Measure results

Nothing measured is nothing learned. Be sure to implement analytics and reporting as part of your project so you can work with your agency to make improvements. It’s also important to make the goals of the project clear from the beginning so your agency can help you work to achieve them. Your agency should be able to provide assistance on how to measure the performance of your digital assets if needed. 

9. Raise concerns early

If you’re not happy with the way a project is unfolding, don’t let your concerns go unheard. Speaking up early can mean the difference between a project being a runaway success or a derailment. Your producer (project manager) should be your first port of call and if the situation can’t be resolved at this level it may be necessary to escalate the problem to an account manager or director.

10. Think long term

Your relationship with your digital agency should be one of long-term partnership rather than one-off service provider. Be prepared to trust them, but also to question them. Be open with them about your strengths, weaknesses and challenges. Share your immediate goals as well as your long-term vision, and discuss with them possible future phases of your project(s). An agency that’s in it for the long haul should be able to provide you with ongoing support, maintenance and continuous improvement. Most importantly, they should provide you with a sense that your goals are their goals too. 

This article is the third in a series on the digital agency/client relationship
Part One: How to brief a digital agency (and actually get what you want)
Part Two: Selecting a digital agency? Read this first...

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