The key to successful agency engagement? Great Expectations

The importance of; Client & Agency having the difficult conversations, upfront. Challenge each other from the outset to give the relationship the best chance of long term mutual success.

After almost 30 years of delivering agency services, if there is one overriding factor that is pivotal to engineering a mutually successful client-agency engagement, it’s expectation setting.

It’s the ever present push /pull conundrum.

  • The client is making a sizeable investment; they are optimistic and believe strongly both in their offering as well as the appetite of the target market. But will aspirations cloud reality?
  • The agency wants to win the business and they need to win the clients trust so how far will they go to challenge any unrealistic client expectations. Will self-interest override integrity?

Most readers, from whichever side of the client/agency divide you come from, will recognise these competing elements.

Reality is that often, all that sets a project apart from being a success is the lack of realistic expectation setting – by both sides!

Client –

if there are expectations of likely results, on what evidence are these expectations based– too often its based on ‘gut’ or the fact the last two inbound leads came from the vertical now being targeted because clearly ‘it’s hot’.

If you are genuinely unsure what market response your programme will generate – be straight about it and work constructively with the agency to arrive at some goals.

Otherwise your inviting the agency to tell you what you wish to hear and setting the bar of success at a level that condemns the project to ‘failure’ before it commences.

Agency –

Yes, the agency wants to win the business.  But  are they prepared to challenge client thinking regarding outcomes and ROI? They know that to argue strongly against the client’s expectations risks them losing the business to a competitor who may make fantastical promises of success.

By not challenging the client, the agency in effect leads the customer to decide to launch based on outlandish expectations. At least being honest about results gives the client the option to consider placing their marketing bets elsewhere. 

The agency may get lucky and hit the project goals; more likely they’ll fail and destroy their credibility with the client.

The outcome is that clients waste time burning through agencies looking for ‘The One’ and likewise agencies waste time on one off projects that never lead into a long-term partnership.

To avoid this, clients need to examine what hard evidence they have to support their ambitions for a project and agencies need to show backbone and challenge these ambitions if necessary – the alternative is wasted time, money and effort on all sides otherwise.

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