5 Things Agencies Wish Clients Knew

Marketoonist illustrates the importance of listening and communicating in an agency-client relationship.

Healthy relationships begin with mutual respect, open communication, realistic expectations, honest feedback, and a deep understanding of self - and the agency-client relationship is no exception to this rule.

The process to find and onboard a marketing agency is a tedious task. Different projects require different capabilities or agency partners...but what if an existing partnership can be salvaged?

AgencySparks reached out to agency partners, Modo Modo Agency, Swarm Agency, and DEFINITION 6, to get inside the agency mindset and understand the things agencies wish clients knew.

1. We value partners who are patient with our questions and don’t want us to jump into a solution that may not be best for them.

The most common problem in the agency-client relationship is misaligned expectations. While the onboarding process and initial kick-off meeting may set the standards for what is expected...one meeting is not enough to last the entire partnership.

Check-ins should be scheduled regularly with a consistent brand contact - one who has a firm grasp of the project and can accurately answer the agency’s questions. In the likely event that expectations do shift - such as a change in timeline, budget, or scope - there should already be a pre-established process in place.

If the brand does not have a clear vision of where they are headed or who they are, it is difficult for the agency to understand what is expected of them, let alone develop a cohesive marketing strategy to execute any solutions. Therefore, clients who do not have a clear vision should always be open to questions and potentially reevaluating their project objectives, campaign ideas, and/or goals.

“We like to ask a lot of questions so that we really understand our clients' businesses and can make informed strategic recommendations. We value partners who are patient with our questions and don't just want us to jump into a solution that may or may not be best for them.”

- Alexa Ellis, VP, Marketing Implementation & PM, Swarm Agency

2. Producing positive results is our goal. If you'll let us guide you with our experience, you'll reap the rewards.

The most successful business relationships are founded on trust. At the end of the day, any agency’s success is tied to the success of its clients. Just like a parent must let go of a child in order for the child to reach his/her full potential...brand leaders must loosen the grip on their project idea to let it grow under the supervision of the agency.

“It is important to remember that we ALWAYS want you to succeed and that we treat your money like it’s our own.”

- MP Loyd, SVP, Group Account Director, DEFINITION 6

“We don't pitch every new thing to you. We love getting new work, but not at the expense of what is best for you and your business. If we are pitching a solution or project, we have done the background research and fully believe it will increase your KPIs and [elevate your] overall business. Producing positive results is our goal.”

- Olivia Brooks, Senior Account Executive, Swarm Agency

“I love when clients trust the process. We do what we do very well, and we always have our client’s best interest at heart. When clients trust the process and don’t try and cut corners, they are always much happier with the results.”

 - MP Loyd, SVP, Group Account Director, DEFINITION 6

“Many agencies have processes that are tried and true, and our processes are very effective for producing great work. If you'll let us guide you with our experience, you'll reap the rewards.”

- Alexa Ellis, VP, Marketing Implementation & PM, Swarm Agency

3. As agencies, we’re typically good at finding creative solutions - but we need to understand the field we’re playing on.

Respectful, open, honest, and frequent communication keeps any long-term relationship afloat. Facilitating an open dialogue is perhaps the most important element of the agency-client relationship.

When communicating the ask...

“The more info you provide the better! We get it. One size does NOT fit all. We are here to find your business the perfect solution just for you, but we can't do that without full transparency on both ends.”

Olivia Brooks, Sr. Account Executive, Swarm Agency

When communicating the budget...

“If we know your budget constraints up front, we can customize the best solution for you instead of going down the wrong path. Marketing recommendations aren't ‘one-size-fits-all,’ and knowing your budget can help us narrow down the best solution for you. We may even find out up-front that you'd be better off with a different agency partner, and we can pair you up with someone we trust early on instead of wasting your time.”

- Alexa Ellis, VP, Marketing Implementation & PM, Swarm Agency


“Tailoring an approach to meet the budget isn’t always as simple as ‘one less of these’ or ‘two more of those’. Certain tactics may not be successful at a lesser scale. We might need to re-prioritize efforts or consolidate timing. Or, we might propose something entirely different [once we fully understand] your budget. When we’re not having transparent discussions, it slows down the process and requires more upfront work for everyone.”

- Amanda Creger, Director of Strategy, Modo Modo Agency


“Being transparent about budgets allows us to provide the best solution within the given budget. There are almost always several ways to deliver a solution. However, they vary in effort, results, and final deliverables. For example, a website can cost $25K or it can cost $750K+, it all depends on what you want that website to do and how important research, proper planning, and additional features are to [the final product] and, more importantly, your success.”

- MP Loyd, SVP, Group Account Director, DEFINITION 6

When communicating constraints…

“It’s important to be upfront with your agency about any/all constraints that may impact approach, and, ultimately, success. Timing, stakeholder dynamics, organizational culture, and more can all be the difference between success and failure. By our very nature, agencies are typically good at finding creative solutions—but we need to understand the field we’re playing on.”

- Amanda Creger, Director of Strategy, Modo Modo Agency

4. It can’t be good, fast, AND cheap - You’ll have to pick two.

Making an effort to understand an agency’s bandwidth goes hand in hand with the importance of communicating and setting expectations. If the client is aware of unexpected occurrences jeopardizing the project, they will understand that the agency is working at full capacity to get back on track. The brand must also think realistically about timeline, staffing, the creative work process, and budgeting constraints.

“Timeline and staffing [are important processes for clients to understand]. Clients seem to think that we have a surplus of resources just sitting around to jump on last minute items. While we always try our best to make everything happen, quick-turn requests usually come with implications to the work or to another client. It is important to remember that proper planning allows for better work. Lastly, always remember that it can’t be good, fast and cheap - you have to pick two.”

- MP Loyd, SVP, Group Account Director, DEFINITION 6

5. Our best relationships are ones where the respect is mutual, and there’s appreciation for our role as brand stewards and customer advocates. If you win, we win.

Clients hire agencies to fill gaps in capabilities or capacity - therefore clients should treat their agency as a respected team member. True partnerships require both parties to treat each other how they would like to be treated… this means having respect for the agency’s time when it comes to meetings, communications, and expectations.

“We're a team. Collaboration with you is everything. We want to work hand in hand with you to not only execute projects, but provide you with the best recommendations for your business using our expertise. Working as a team is crucial to success. You win; we win.”

- Olivia Brooks, Sr. Account Executive, Swarm Agency

The agencies are hired to provide their expertise and execute the brand’s vision. In order to best serve its clients, a good agency will be more than a teammate - it will also be a challenger.

“We take pride in not being ‘yes men’ and our favorite clients are the ones who appreciate being challenged—whether that’s to take a different point of view, to try something new, or to push the envelope a bit further than they’re comfortable with. This doesn’t mean we debate for the sake of it. We love our clients and respect their expertise. But our best relationships are the ones where the respect is mutual, and there’s appreciation for our role as an objective, third-party voice for the customer and brand.”

- Amanda Creger, Director of Strategy, Modo Modo Agency

The agency-client relationship is a two-way street that requires constant effort and a deep understanding of the other party. Just like any relationship, things can get difficult... but a good partnership is always worth fighting for.

Special thanks to Amanda Creger, Olivia Brooks, MP Loyd, and Alexa Ellis for their contribution to this post!