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The Well-Being of the Client-Agency Relationship

Jan 03, 2022

The pandemic has helped humanize all relationships in our profession including the one between agency and client. 

As someone who has led more than a dozen account teams throughout my career, I know firsthand the importance of having perspective on the blending of personal and professional lives our clients are going through. I also know the challenges that agency leaders and their teams have daily. 

Shared challenges of working from crowded homes, sharing constrained resources with partners and spouses, taking care of children and parents, and adopting pets have helped bring together clients and agencies like never before.

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Heading into 2022, a new set of client and agency relationships will form. Contracts will be signed, and both parties will be excited to start the partnership on the right foot.

As a part of those new partnerships and strengthening existing partnerships, I strongly encourage my corporate- and agency-side friends to have a transparent discussion on day-to-day work expectations. Having a practical and actionable dialogue will help reduce stress, anxiety and turnover.

Four ways the senior client lead and the senior account lead can drive a discussion on this topic include:

• Shift the mindset of “us and them” to “we.” My most successful client relationships were those in which the clients honestly thought of our teams as a true collective. The onus is on both the client and agency leaders to set a standard that this is a single unit. 

• Share the realities of the client and agency team members’ schedules. Due to several people leaving their companies and joining new ones, this is an opportunity for clarity around core work hours across the collective team. Do the client and agency have similar approaches to remote and hybrid work expectations? If not, how can adjustments be made?

• Establish clear guidelines on why meetings need to be scheduled. Is there a clear purpose? Is a pre-read sent ahead of the meeting? Is it a 60-minute meeting when a 25-minute meeting will do? Do all members of the client and agency team need to participate? Can they otherwise be working on projects? Are there expectations around having cameras on during meetings, which, while essential to establish rapport, can be draining if used too often? 

• Determine the primary channel(s) to which the client and agency teams will communicate. Will the agency use the client’s standard tools (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.), or is the client looking to the agency to establish norms for the business?

Building a healthy relationship between client and agency is essential to establishing a consistent, productive and mutually beneficial partnership. Setting expectations in place that can positively impact the well-being of the collective team members will significantly impact the relationship in the years to come. 

Have a wonderful 2022, everyone! Be safe. Be kind. Be well.

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