ARE YOU A D!CK CLIENT? How to build a fruitful partnership with your agency (and why it matters)

ARE YOU A D!CK CLIENT? How to build a fruitful partnership with your agency (and why it matters)

See this pic? It’s me, enjoying an after-work drink with Phillip – the Co-Founder of one of our favourite clients here at RM.  

And no, it wasn’t a special occasion. In fact, this is a regular event.

That’s right. Phillip and I meet up every couple of months to share a bottle of chardy and a cheese platter – and to play a fun game called ‘Spot the typos in competitors’ ads’! 

And each time we meet, he opens our conversation with an important question:

‘So, Vikki, tell me – are we being a D!CK client?’

Okay, I’m not quoting him verbatim here. But that‘s the gist of what he’s saying when he asks me how well his team is working with my team – and if there’s anything we need from them to improve things further. 

Surprised? So was I, when it first happened. 

You see, I’ve been working agency-side for two decades now. So I’ve become accustomed to very different types of questions from clients. Questions like:

  • Can you reduce your rates?
  • Can you get it to us by 12pm? [requested at 11.49am]
  • We’re too busy to brief you, can you just get started anyway?

But not from Phillip. Because he gets it.

He understands that to receive the best possible outputs from my team, we need to get the best possible inputs from his team. No, he’s not interested in reducing our working relationship to the traditional client-agency trope. 

You know the trope I’m referring to here, don’t you?

The difficult, demanding client on one side. And the subservient agency on the other. 

But here’s the thing: If you’re the type of client that gets seduced by this dated power dynamic, you’re doing yourself – and your business – a huge disservice. 

Take it from me. 

Here at RM, we’ve had our fair share of challenging clients over the years. And when we do, this is how it plays out:

    • We are not excited about doing their work (sometimes, we even dread it)
    • We’re less inclined to reshuffle our workload to meet urgent deadlines
    • We ‘switch off’ from their work as soon as we can  

    On the other hand, when we work with engaged, responsive and respectful clients who are genuine partners with our business, this is how that plays out:

    • We put our heart and soul into their work – plain and simple  
    • We move heaven and earth to meet their tight deadlines (since they’re a rarity)
    • We wake up at 2am with brilliant new ideas for their brand 

    So, if you see value in this, the next question is how can you avoid being that D!CK client? And what does it take to build a fruitful partnership with your agency? 

    Here’s my list of 11 quick-fire ways to become your agency’s favourite client!

    1. Respect their time

    Turn up to meetings on time. Don’t cancel at the last minute. Give them your undivided attention when you’re with them (phone on silent).

    And avoid calling out of the blue expecting a long chat. (Book a time instead.)

    2. Learn how to brief

    It’s all about avoiding ‘garbage in, garbage out’. When you take the time and care to craft your brief, any (smart) agency will delight and surprise you – which means better, faster results, time and again.

    As much as we all love the classic ‘expect-the-agency-to-read-minds’ approach, every agency person I know is a tad more partial to the ‘ask-for-what-you-want-and-then-get-it’ method. Crazy, I know.

    3. Perfect the art of giving feedback

    Just like your briefs, your feedback needs to be clear and precise.

    Delivery also matters. So share any negative feedback with kindness and tact. And don’t leave out the positive stuff too. If you love it, tell ‘em!

    4. Trust their expertise

    You’re engaging your agency for a reason: their expert guidance and advice. So let them provide it.

    I’m not saying you have to love every idea or recommendation they present. But you do need to listen, be curious about their rationale – and avoid micromanaging. Otherwise, you could just be ‘getting in the way’ of your own greatness.

    5. Don’t haggle on price

    Can’t afford their services? That’s cool. But please, don’t try to convince your agency to reduce their fees – just because, They may just end up begrudging you.

    Instead, ask what’s possible for your budget. This shows you respect their time and expertise. And that you’re interested in a relationship, not a one-night-stand. 

    6. Don’t assume you know how long things take

    If you pay your agency hourly, don’t tell them how long things ‘should’ take.

    And refrain from questioning their invoices unless something really smells off or you’ve been misled. (If you believe they could be inflating their hours, then the real issue here is a lack of trust – and a surefire sign it’s time for a new agency.) 

    7. Remember that quality work takes time

    Most clients will have an urgent deadline every once in a while. That’s okay, it happens. But if you make it the norm, your agency will start resenting you.

    And remember, a quick job is rarely a good job. It’s also how mistakes happen!

    8. Follow their processes

    All good agencies have well-designed processes for kicking off projects, taking briefs, receiving feedback and so on. These processes exist to ensure efficient and effective outcomes. So don’t turn their winning formula into a recipe for disaster. 

    9. Treat ALL staff with respect

    Getting along with the agency’s leaders is important for a long-lasting partnership. But it’s only half the story.

    You also need to be kind and respectful to staff across all levels of the business. Remember, we were all juniors once upon a time – so be patient with those who are still learning. As an agency leader myself, I will always prioritise the wellbeing of my people above an obnoxious client.  

    10. Give them your time – IRL

    Do you take the time to get to know your agency’s staff outside of the work you’re doing together? Do you know the names of their children or pets – or their favourite contestant on Love Island?

    Agencies love clients who are interested in who they are as people.

    And although technology makes connecting easy, strong relationships are built in real life. Bringing teams together allows you to foster trust and an open rapport. Know the people – not just the company – committed to helping you succeed.  

    11. Ask for feedback

    Feedback should always be a two-way street. So, just like Phillip does, set regular times with your agency to find out how your team is performing – and what you can do to improve processes and outcomes.

    This shows you understand that the quality and timeliness of their work is largely dependent on you

    So now you know. Don’t be that D!CK client. Instead, take the steps you need to take to be your agency’s favourite client – and enjoy the dividends for a long time to come!