What Makes a Kick-Ass Agency Client?

September 15, 2016

What great clients do to turn their agencies into powerful growth engines.

By Bruno Gralpois

Are you the kind of client that agencies desperately want to acquire and retain? Do you know what it takes to be a great client? In "Think Different," I emphasized the unique qualities industry leaders like Apple exhibit with their agencies to get outstanding work. In "How Clients Drive Their Agencies Crazy," I spoke to the common mistakes made by brand advertisers working with their agencies that ultimately lead to poor relationships and performance. Successful brands are known to be great clients, because unless they are, they are unlikely to succeed. No wonder this is one of most commonly asked questions: what will it take to be a kick-ass client?
This is an increasingly demanding environment, and no client can afford to miss out on the opportunity to turn roster agencies into highly effective and competitive growth engines for their organization. After reviewing and compiling the results of our clients' agency evaluations, we can confidently say what agencies consider great clients to be, and what they share in common.

  1. GIVE ENOUGH TIME AND RESOURCES: Great clients understand that agencies cannot always be in fire-drill mode to deliver strategically sound work. They give enough time for the agency to deliver against their objectives. They provide them with the necessary resources to deliver great work.
  2. ARE RESPECTFUL AND COLLABORATIVE: Great clients are straightforward yet respectful. They act with consideration and show respect – to the agency team, to the work, to the process. They value their agency's opinion. They act fairly and are always transparent. They foster a spirit of partnership and teamwork to encourage cross-agency collaboration.
  3. PROVIDE CLEAR DIRECTION: Great clients give clear and consistent direction to the agency on business challenges. They invest time upfront to prepare and use the agency resources wisely. They take ownership of the brief and use it as the reference point throughout.
  4. ARE RISK TAKERS: Great clients are open minded and let their agencies push them. They take calculated risks. They challenge the status quo or encourage their agencies to do so. They are open to innovative ideas and critical thinking. They encourage and reward innovation and creativity.
  5. ARE DEMANDING OF OTHERS AND THEMSELVES: Great clients set realistic but high expectations. They set the bar high. They define success clearly and ensure everyone is focused on driving business results. More importantly, they lead by example.
  6. PROVIDE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK: Great clients are fair and realistic, and they realize that they get what they pay for. They provide constructive, clear, consolidated and timely feedback and rationalize their decisions.
  7. COMMUNICATE PROACTIVELY: Great clients communicate often, share relevant information and make themselves accessible to their agency partners. They make sure data and relevant information are freely shared between team members and agencies. They involve the agency early on.
  8. INSPIRE OTHERS: Great clients motivate others by inspiring them and making them feel valued and appreciated. They are talent magnets. They know how to best leverage the talent of their agency. Agencies actually enjoy working for them.
  9. CHAMPION IDEAS AND ARE ACCOUNTABLE: Great clients stand behind the work, no matter the outcome. They feel mutually accountable for the work. They champion big ideas and help bring them to life. They approve work in a timely manner or get input from key decision makers.
  10. TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: Great clients understand their role in making the relationship successful. They are willing to look under the hood and address behaviors that negatively impact the relationship and the work. They are willing to listen and take action resulting from the agency's feedback.
  11. ARE APPRECIATIVE AND SUPPORTIVE: Great clients acknowledge great work and celebrate talent, which in turn contributes to talent retention and ultimately better work. They believe that a successful agency translates into better talent and service.

The famous and visionary Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh used to say: "Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together." The same can be said of great clients. Follow these best practices, be the client every agency wants and see the work quality and performance thrive.

Bruno Gralpois is the co-founder of Agency Mania Solutions, a premier service and technology firm specialized in helping companies realize the transformational value of managed partnerships. Bruno is the author of best-seller "Agency Mania," the former chair of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Client/Agency Committee and a faculty member of the ANA School of Marketing. Bruno is an active member of associations and industry forums, where he contributes to increasing the impact of effective client/agency relationships and brand building efforts on a company's bottom line.


"What Makes a Kick-Ass Agency Client?" Bruno Gralpois, Founder of Agency Mania Solutions, July 2016.

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