Client-Agency Relationship – Part I: What Should You Expect From Your Agency?



Recently, we stumbled onto an article that mentioned that Campbell Ewald worked with Chevrolet for 88 years. 88 years! That’s longer than most marriages!

It got us thinking about the “marriage” between client and agency. What makes it work? What can make it go bust? Clients always have certain expectations, and it’s our job to manage and meet those. But often, when you ask a client what they want in their agency relationship, they can rattle off a list of things about strong creative, strategic thinking, etc., but they fail to see the little things that really make it work. 

First of all, let’s talk about the table stakes. These are the basic things an agency good agency must provide.

  • Creative thinking
  • Strategic understanding
  • A responsive and respectful team
  • Cost-efficiency
  • Knowledge of your business
  • Open and transparent communication (i.e. no surprises)

But for a client-agency relationship to stand the test of time, there are extras that sometimes get forgotten:

  • Sharing of best practices – Your agency should regularly share things that have been done successfully by other companies and other industries that might parallel the challenges you have.
  • An eye on your competition –Your agency should be putting their ideas (and even yours) up against what your competition is doing to make sure that you stand out and can be differentiated in your target’s mind.
  • Tools to help you sell an idea internally – Agencies understand how difficult it can be to sell an idea within your corporation, especially to people who may not have a full understanding of marketing. Agencies have to sell their ideas to clients every day. A good agency should be able to help you anticipate this and provide tools to help you sell the idea.
  • Additional target insights – If an idea doesn’t resonate with your customer, it’s no good. A good agency should occasionally tap into their contacts for some quick down and dirty research to gain additional insights or test an idea.
  • Ideas that keep you ahead of the curve – In this day and age, everything is moving fast! Your agency should help you keep tuned into trends (ex: social media, guerilla marketing, content strategy, etc.) to help you take advantage and stay ahead of the pack.
  • A 360° viewpoint – When you’re on the client side, focused on all of the day-to-day issues, tasks, meetings, etc., it’s easy to get too close to your challenges and miss out on other opportunities. Your agency isn’t mired in your day-to-day issues and should be able to give you out-of-the box ideas or see alternative opportunities that you might miss.

As an agency, it’s our job to make our clients look great. We need to help them be more efficient, more productive, reach their goals (both personally and as a corporation) and be better marketers. But as a client, don’t settle for the table stakes, look for those extras that will make the difference.

As in every marriage, it’s a two-way street. In Part II of this blog we’ll cover the things your agency needs from you to keep the relationship humming.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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