I recently read an article in Ad Age, “If the Client Was Always Right, It Wouldn’t Need an Ad Agency”. Moiré is not an ad agency, but a strategic branding, marketing and communications agency. Big difference. Traditional advertising agencies walk a fine line when it comes to “The client is always right.” There is a lot of grey associated with this ideal. It is not simply black and white. Rather than talk about why I agree with the Ad Age author I want to discuss the importance of client education as it relates to a successful agency/client relationship.
Clients come to an agency for a variety of reasons – principally because they are looking for help on a specific project. In the professional services industry, many mid-sized firms are working in 1-3 person marketing departments and they do not have the expertise to fulfill their creative or business objectives without outside assistance. Hence, they look to an agency to provide that guidance, structure and collaboration.
A large part of our job as agencies is to continuously provide client education. After all, this is part of the customer service clients should expect from a business partner. Without a clear brand, guidelines, briefs or even RFPs, agencies are simply taking a stab in the dark. At Moiré, we try to eliminate this stigma that many advertising agency/client relationships often fall victim too.
Many clients understand marketing, but they have a difficult time connecting the dots of an integrated marketing plan. They lack the experience and understanding necessary to grasp the intricacies of what a plan or what the project phases consist of. It is our responsibility as agencies and business partners to educate our clients at every stage of the process. This starts with a kick-off meeting that includes education on deadlines, expectations, project phase timelines and costs. For example, you would not let your client pick and choose the process that your agency’s web design and development should follow. Well, some might but I would hope a majority of us wouldn’t. This kind of education and collaboration never ends and clients shouldn’t expect it to. As Ad Age points out, “Agencies are not order takers.” Once you have reached this level of a relationship, it is tough to reverse. But, without education, this scenario may present itself very quickly.
With proper client education throughout the lifetime of an agency/client partnership, the policy “the client is always right” will become less important and more about the collaboration and trust you have built with your client.
How do you manage your client relationships? Does client education play a role?