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Developing a trusted client/agency relationship

Talking Points, partnership

John Gonda – Heathcare Account Manager

As a former “client side” marketing director for more than 20 years, who has in recent years transitioned to the agency side, I often have former colleagues and current peers remark on the unique perspective I now have.

Most often, I am asked what qualities I believe help make a great agency partner. But before I get started, note that I said partner. I think that’s the very first step in developing a trusted relationship between client and agency. Together, you are partners. You depend on me, and I need to depend on you. That’s how trust is initially built. Trust is the ultimate basis of all long-term business relationships. Without it, there is no differentiation and no value.

When I talk about trust, that is to say that actions should always have a partner’s best interests in mind. But, trust also goes a bit beyond that. Naturally, a great agency partner should produce high-quality work, and always act ethically and honestly.

The agency needs to make the client’s internal teams look good and always support them. Part of this support is to be transparent in discussions and responsive to needs. It also requires sharing mutual strategies and goals, and always meeting budgets and deadlines.

A successful partnership is also built on respecting the person you work with the most. To do so, both sides need to be authentic. Always. And by you being you, and me being me, we can determine if this is the right fit. Be real. Life is much easier when we all work alongside people we know and like. We can then comfortably ask if the partnership is useful. As long as these answers continue to be yes, it allows both partners to define ongoing and collaborative goals.

Clients and their agency partners should be able to challenge each other. If one side doesn’t feel that they can tell the other that something is wrong, that is a huge red flag. By taking this approach, there will be plenty of learning and open discussions on both sides.

A few years ago, Forbes magazine published a really good article about ideas for improving client-agency partnerships. There were about a dozen or so ideas, but one of them especially resonated with me: let the experts do what you hired them to do.

When I say this resonated with me, I mean from both my time working in the corporate world, and also in my current role as an agency account manager. In our careers, we all work with very talented and capable people. We also work with people who are overwhelmed with competing priorities, whether that means too many emails, too many meetings, or simply too much work to fit into a typical workday.

How do we solve these challenges? I believe the answer is to let your agency partners help. Trust in the partners you have selected and believe that they are an exceptional extension of your internal teams. This trust will make everyone more successful and will ultimately develop a relationship that achieves greatness for all those involved.

Interested in learning more?