Creative ideas, original approach to actualities, accurate insights – usually all these things are identified as components of successful projects.
However, the relationship between a client and his or her external team, in other words, the agency people, is equally important for successful project results. Commonly, the agency is the one that puts more effort into building a good relationship (or just retaining the client), but there are some factors that depend on the client. So what needs to be done, to make the external team internal and as true colleagues work in achieving the best results?
It is no news that a project should start with a clarification of goals and desired results. However, in some cases, the problems appear because agencies are only focused on communication goals, which do not always generate a beneficial business result.
This is why I would recommend starting a project by firstly discussing the business goals and only then to move on to the communication goals that arise from them and the desired outcomes. In this way, the agency has a chance to see the big picture, put itself in the shoes of a client and simply become more aware of the situation.
When implementing a project, it is useful to review the set goals and results from time to time and to redefine them if they do not contribute to achieving the business results.
For example, if a business goal is to sell 20 flats in a new quarter and the communication goal is to build awareness of this quarter, after some time it should be evaluated, how the reached awareness correlates with sales. If increased awareness does not help, then it is worth thinking that perhaps communication should focus on highlighting competitive advantages or direct sales promotion.
Otherwise, communication specialists who are only concentrating on communication goals without seeing the entire picture can be happy with good results that actually did not add any value. And in any team, striving for different outcomes can lead to a breakup.
Another important step in building a client-agency team is sharing information. Usually, the project information is concentrated on the side of the client, but in order for the agency to work as a colleague, it should be shared in the same way as with people sitting at the same desk in the office.
Share in-house news, ongoing changes, even rumours that you hear when having lunch with colleagues. Talk about the expectations of managers, business challenges, and share anything that would allow agency people to better understand your business specifics. Introduce to employees from other departments, organise office tours, invite to go to conferences together.
All this will allow the agency people to receive a deeper understanding of your activities, empathise with your situation, get a quicker grasp of tasks. When an agency knows as much as an insider, the solutions offered will be more accurate and you, as a client will save a lot of time.
It is common practice in agencies to collect feedback from clients. Understanding, how we are doing, what can we do better or need to stop doing, helps us to improve.
In order to build a successful client-agency team, it is worth focusing on both sides. It can often seem strange, after all, whoever pays is the one to order the music, but when time is spent to gather feedback, in the long run, that music can sound much more harmonious.
Ask the agency what you, as a client, could do differently and how could we make the collaboration process more effective or achieve better results. Clarify specific situations where feedback is important and ask about them. You will probably receive answers that will not only improve your relationship with the agency but, for example, will also help to save time when delegating tasks.
Ideally, feedback should be collected or given straight away, not after a month or when the project is over, but in real-time, when the work is being done. In such a case we prevent dissatisfaction, that begins to build up when unspoken. Whereas openness and improvement are the couple more things that are important in successful teamwork.
What is more, feedback is often perceived as an expression of comments. However, positive feedback, praises usually bring more benefits. We achieve a more sustainable team relationship when we encourage one another by praising and learning from what was done well, rather than just pointing out the mistakes that were made.
On the other hand, there are some cases (OK, to be honest, they are quite rare) when both sides are only exchanging praises, and looking away from mistakes or failures. When creating a successful client-agency team, I would recommend keeping in mind the failures, incorrectly formulated tasks and so on. This is not very pleasant for both sides, but let’s look at them as lessons.
Well, the last piece of advice, seemingly flimsy, but no less important.
When seeking to achieve the best results, agencies tend to give their laurels to the client. Won the best employer award? Congratulations! Your communication project was chosen to be the most effective? We are happy for you! Do we think we contributed to it? Yes, but the award usually rests on the shelf of your company. We are not angry about this, but I am sure that it could be used to motivate the team.
Celebrating victories together strengthens the relationship, motivates the agency to work harder and enhances the sense of teamwork. And besides, you do not need to receive an award from outside to celebrate victories! Are you first in the share of voice this month? Did the ad campaign receive positive media coverage? Did we come up with a stunning idea? Let’s go celebrate! Let us also notice the small victories – they will lay the foundation for the big ones.