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Great Clients Get the Best Work

From BMA Knowledge Base

There are no great agencies...only great clients.
Knowledgeable clients are great, well-served clients.
The irony is that those clients who ask, "What makes for a great client?" or "What can we do to help ensure our program's success?" probably already are great clients who have great programs. They already practice the principles that make agency client relationships work: partnership, honesty and a constant commitment to make things better.

What Kind Of Relationship Do You Have?
There are two kinds of client-agency relationships:

The superior/subordinate relationship, which is characterized by mistrust, lack of respect for the agency expertise and undercurrents of intimidation. It's always clear that the client will make the agency pay if something goes wrong or dismiss the agency in a heartbeat.
The equal partnership, in which the agency is viewed as a member of the company's management and marketing teams. The absence of fear, intimidation and disrespect makes the relationship work and it allows for honesty. It allows the agency to disagree, argue and to take risks to achieve great results. It also allows agencies to admit when they have failed.
In a partnership relationship, the client fully shares with the agency its fears and confidences as well as its strengths and weaknesses. This open dialogue is essential if the agency is to grasp the client's goals and objectives and develop and carry out an efficient, effective program that highlights and optimizes the client's strengths.
Great Client Commandments
In other words, here's how to get the best work from an agency:

1. Great clients totally immerse their agencies in their products, their marketing and their markets. It costs a bit to send agency people to your operation centers, customer sites, sales meetings trade shows and conferences. But this immersion helps agency people learn facts that can help position and promote your firm and its products or services. It also helps the agency team gain a solid understanding of your corporate culture - whether it's conservative or risk taking, efficient or committed to service.

Armed with a thorough understanding of the client's business, the agency can contribute its unique talents and expertise to the relationship. It can help the agency carry out a campaign that evokes a sense of corporate pride or articulates a corporate mission. It can produce the results management is seeking.

2. Great clients involve the agency in thorough, up-front planning, briefing and research. They completely define the effort and agree upon goals at the outset.

3. Great clients do not hire an agency to "do a specific task," give it all of the responsibility, and then either tell the agency what to do or restrict management input. Dictating activities to an agency deprives the client of ideas that could set apart the firm from the competition and produce exceptional results. Lack of management involvement allows the client to hold the agency at arm's length until the outcome is certain. If the program fails, management is absolved of any wrongdoing. If the program succeeds, management can laud itself for its brilliance.

4. Great clients provide their agencies with ready access to the president, vice president of marketing and the organization's other senior members. Agencies need direction from senior management and a clear understanding of their objectives in order to produce results that achieve their goals.

5. Great clients understand that agencies can't produce instant results. Just as an avalanche builds in size and power as it plummets down the mountainside, effective programs gain momentum and effectiveness over time.

6. Great clients don't proclaim a program a failure when it doesn't achieve its toughest objectives at the outset. Instead, they nurture it with the agency. The team analyzes the activities and results to fine tune and perhaps redirect the effort. Agencies want their clients to do well because it shows that their strategies and tactics are working.

7. Great clients want their agency to succeed. They expect the agency to make a fair profit because they understand that people who are overworked and undercompensated seldom deliver outstanding work on a consistent basis. Bills are paid promptly, not only out of simple professional courtesy, but so that the agency can devote its full energy to the success of the client's program rather than on being paid.

8. Great clients don't leave to "try a fresh approach" or because another agency quoted a lower fee or made promises the client knows can't possibly be met.

9. Great clients know when they have a good relationship and successful programs. When problems arise - and they do in any relationship - management of the two organizations discuss them openly. The client then gives the agency a chance to improve the situation.

10. Great clients are hard to find. Trust me, an agency will do everything in its power to correct a problem or to produce even greater results.

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