Keeping Agency Clients Happy in Today’s On-Demand Environment

Marketing and public relations agencies are not immune to the gig economy. With information readily available online, and some clients wanting straight tactics over a strategic approach, elements of our profession are at risk of being outsourced.

Stratacomm works tirelessly to maintain long-term client relationships, evidenced by our recent successful rebid for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other five+ year clients including Nissan, Norfolk Southern, the Aluminum Association (21 years and counting) and more. We must consistently add value or risk being replaced.

In our most recent client survey, 100 percent of respondents agreed Stratacomm, “provides insights, creative solutions, desired results.” How do we keep the magic alive? While there are countless ways to ensure a strong, lasting relationship – stay on top of trends, offer counsel, be responsive – some top tips are listed below.

  • Don’t take relationships for granted. Congratulations if you’ve made the inroads to rub elbows with the C-suite. But focusing your attention on only the newest person in the room or the highest ranking will eventually backfire. The most skilled communicator is the one that openly shows respect and genuinely values input across the board.  
  • Ask for honest feedback. Don’t wait for a client to offer an assessment of your performance.  Ask for it at regular intervals. Be it good, bad or neutral, trying to guess if your clients are satisfied with the agency relationship is a huge risk. I would bet most in an agency setting have lost a client sometime in their career, and then said, “If I had only known they weren’t happy …”
  • Communicate on their terms, not yours. Marketing communications agencies may think Asana or Microsoft Project is the best client-facing project tool ever, but if your client finds it a burden, it becomes the worst tool. At the beginning of every client relationship, you need to determine how your client likes to receive information. Phone call? Face to face? Basecamp? Slack? Certainly offer the most effective communications tools as a starting point, but if your client thinks texting is for emergency only, having a mobile-based information platform may not be the best solution.  
  • Confront mistakes head on. If you’ve made a mistake or fell below expectation, own it and proactively address it. Even the most talented communications strategist is not going to get it right 100 percent of the time. Clients will be much more forgiving if you flag the mistake, address how to fix it and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  
  • Talk about new things. Keep your relationship fresh by talking about different strategies, even if it’s not a primary capability. We consistently talk to clients about benchmarking efforts with research, a service Stratacomm will engage a research partner to execute. Instead of shying away from talking about ideas that you don’t sell as a primary service, offer what is best for the client.  

If these tips sound familiar, they should. It’s the business version of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. If you just follow the rule of transparency with honest, open and ongoing communications, you’re on the right path to building long lasting relationships with happy clients.

Sharon Hegarty is a senior partner and senior vice president at Stratacomm, who still believes most of life lessons are learned in kindergarten.

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