The importance of the client-agency relationship (and why it works)

I’ve been an agency girl all my life and have been lucky enough to work in excellent agencies. Back in one of my first agencies, Proximity London, the client services team had relationship training. It was about understanding people, matching similar personality types and marking off various people within the client team – it was smart and it worked.

Back then, I was an account manager with just a couple of years’ experience being paired with the marketing director of a FTSE 100 client. It frightened the life out of me, I feared making a mistake, jeopardising the client relationship or simply not knowing what to say. Surprisingly, he liked me and we got on (and it wasn’t my wit, charm and gorgeous looks that won him over). It was that we were the same personality profile and we just got each other.

The same agency were also smart because they focused on relationships – how to build and develop deeper relations for and with their customers, as well as their own clients. With their customers’ customers it was clever comms plans, cadence and creative customer profiling and segmentation. When it came to their own clients, it was about ‘surprise and delight’ – going the extra mile and building deeper relationships with direct clients so they wouldn’t look elsewhere.

Today, I’m always curious why our clients choose to work with Modern. We often seek feedback because if we don’t know the state of the relationship, we won’t be able to improve it.

We’ve all worked with difficult people. You know, the one that drives you mad, that just doesn’t get it or is simply hard work. Then there are those with whom working together is easy. You get on, you help each other and you’re working towards the same goal. Why do only some relationships work?

When I look at the clients we work well with, there are common traits of those that stay and those that don’t. When we’re at an early stage in the relationship (before contracts are signed), we spend time with our prospects to understand if they possess those traits – because if they do, the relationship for both parties is likely to be much better. Likewise, if we know it’s unlikely to work, we move on. I suppose that’s chemistry – you either have it or you don’t.

So what are the qualities that make the client-agency relationship work so well?

Mutual respect

Our clients know their business and we know ours. They understand their market, customers, products and internal culture. We know how to reach and engage with their audience, as well as how to resonate and other intricacies.


Seek out what you don’t know and never bluff it. With complex products and services, we never assume we know. I love the statement ‘never assume, you’ll make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’’.


Work with engaged people who love what they do. If you’re both engaged and enthusiastic, you’ll work harder and faster to the same goal.


Do what you say you will, when you say you will – on both sides. Never let clients down, and ensure clients understand that they need to deliver too. We both need each other.


Be honest. Be trustful. Foster integrity – always.

I’ll make an assumption that you’re either on the agency or client side of the fence. What do you think makes a great client-agency relationship? Tweet me, or message me on LinkedIn.

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