Being a client is not easy. One can get trapped between the internal structures and the agency. Or one can take advantage of diverse skillsets and experiences and use them to excel. As someone who have serviced dozens of clients in a career spanning almost two decades, I have seen the best and the worst situations. Here is a compilation of key attributes that differentiate good clients from the bad.
There are clients who take an agency team as an integrated team. They roll up their sleeves and prefer to go through the grind together to accomplish greater heights. These clients connect with everyone in the agency team and listen to them, motivate them, and soothe their fears. These types of clients have a motivated and excited team working on the account, willing to stretch both scope and man hour to go the extra mile.
And then there are those clients who take the agency as the 'vendor who has to deliver everything perfectly'. They look at only the end-product and in the quest for perfection, every activity seems like an endless loop of complaints and revisions. They constantly call up the agency CEO and throw a tantrum. These clients are those who have not been able to progress beyond ‘Positional Leadership’ in John Maxwell’s 5 levels of leadership. They end up having a team that wants to get out of that account as fast as possible, is stressed, and demotivated. Sometimes, the people on the account end up quitting the agency or even the industry altogether.
A knowledgeable client is a great client to have. The partnership is fascinating and inspiring. While business knowledge is a given, I am talking about various communications activities and tactics. A client who knows how to organise a great press conference, a great media drive, create a video, or a live stream will have the agency team progress smoothly and fast throughout the checklist of activities.
Shouldn't the know how be where an agency come in? That's true. However, working with a knowledgeable client is any day better than reporting to a novice who struggles to give clear feedback or approvals on every step. After all, everything that goes wrong, or every delay, is the agency's fault.
When clients are confident of themselves and their skill sets, they focus on the job and let their work speak for themselves. A client who calls for a brainstorming session with the agency is confident, wants to contribute ideas and is not afraid of opposition or being questioned.
It is easier to be a critic than to ideate. A client that comes up with an idea and ask for agency feedback is rare to find. But those who do this, they turn the tables on the agency creative heads who are then forced to think deeper and better.
Confident clients push the agency in front to take the credits and shield them when there is a mistake. The opposite happens when clients are insecure. Sometimes, the office politics is all known to the agency team who are being forced to take sides.
We know that Clubhouse is the new in-thing and many people are hooked on this platform. Should brands experiment with it? There are clients who get excited about this and are open to experimenting. These are the brands that people think as innovative and cool because they are doing something new.
Then, there are clients who will ask for extensive ROI and examples of other brands reaping benefits beforehand. Only then will they take the proposal to their senior management. In this whole process, they end up not doing anything new or interesting. The agency team over time stops proposing any new idea.
While being cautious is fine, it is boring as well. Most of the 'cool' brands I know jump into opportunities like these and take their chances.
This might seem like an agency plug, but a client that pays well, relatively to their scope of work, reaps big dividends in ways not imaginable. When a well-paying client comes in, everybody in the agency notices. Whenever they want anything, the experienced minds in the agency and their networks come in to contribute and help. Well-paying clients are like VIP clients. The Chief Guest of an event! The cynosure of all eyes!
Clients who don’t pay so well and think they have bargained hard during the signing; they might not realise that eventually, the account might be relegated to some young professionals to manage.
Palin Ningthoujam, is a communications professional who has spent 19 years across 5 agencies and a Big 4 management consultancy.