Marketing success is built on strong relationships between agencies and their clients. These relationships are strong because they’re partnerships. And the cornerstone of partnerships is trust.
As a marketing agency in Chester, we work hard at building trusted relationships with our clients. There are two magic ingredients essential to this – transparency and accountability. These are vital for establishing and nurturing trust.
Which comes first, transparency or accountability?
Surely transparency and accountability are the same? Well no, actually, they’re different but closely related.
- Transparency is being open and honest
- Accountability is accepting responsibility for your behaviour and actions.
Basically, you can’t have accountability without transparency first.
Transparency means your actions are clear, along with their consequences. And, because they’re out in the open, you need to take responsibility for them. That’s the accountability bit.
This is two-way traffic – both the client and agency should be prepared to be open and take responsibility. This way, you create the right conditions on which to grow a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
But of course, saying and doing are two very different things. Transparency and accountability require action to work. Good intentions aren’t enough.
So, which best practices should you adopt to show you’re transparent and accountable?
1. Onboarding is essential
Your prospective client needs to know what your agency is like, including its culture, people and overall approach. They’ll have formed some impression from the pitching process, but good onboarding involves a lot more.
It’s an opportunity for your agency to get to know the client – their values, business objectives and what marketing strategies have worked, or failed to work, for them in the past.
Your aim is to get the client to join in with the process from the start. This way, you establish a solid and transparent working partnership.
2. Agree the brief, including clear goals and milestones
Client-agency relationships are goal-based – you’re working together to achieve a defined. outcome. Therefore, you must agree on this outcome and on any other markers along the way that will show everything is on track.
Agree these goals and milestones at the start to manage the client’s expectations. It’s also a valuable opportunity to raise any issues or concerns well in advance.
Be open and honest – if you’ve queries or see gaps in the client’s briefing data, now’s the time to speak out.
The client should be looking for the same clarity from you. If there’s a mismatch between what they think you’ll be doing and what you’re planning, now’s the time to set things straight.
Vague briefs lead to misunderstandings and mission creep – these can contribute to the client-agency relationship going sour or even breaking down entirely.
3. Set roles, responsibilities and reporting lines
Each person should know where their responsibilities lie and who they answer to.
Ideally, the client and agency should each have a single contact point, to avoid overlapping or contradictory messages.
Think about who’ll pick up the phone and whether they can provide the caller with what they need – passing someone from pillar to post when they want the answer to a query is never a good look.
Clarity is critical for decision-making, especially for assessing, amending and signing off ongoing work, whether it’s the client wanting to know where you’re at, or you needing approval or sign-off.
4. Keep the client in the loop
Be open about progress and costs. The client will want to know you’re spending their budget wisely and hitting your milestones.
There are project management tools to support this, such as a shared dashboard where clients can monitor spending and progress towards KPIs.
Giving your client easy access to ongoing project data is crucial for establishing transparency.
You should also extend this access to artwork, copywriting and other created assets – the idea of surprising and delighting the client is attractive, but you shouldn’t keep them in the dark about what you’re doing.
The more the client knows, the easier you can manage their expectations.
5. Honesty is the best policy
We’re all only too aware that the unexpected can happen. Disruption can hamper progress, from malfunctioning technology to the unplanned absence of staff members due to illness.
Sometimes, the client’s feedback is unclear, or they fail to pick up on some vital missing information until late in the day.
Stuff happens. We’d like to live in a perfect world but we don’t – despite the best intentions, misunderstandings and mix-ups can occur. Costs can escalate.
This is where you truly test transparency and accountability – you’ve got to live your values.
Concealing or minimising issues will only store up more trouble for later and could lead to trust breaking down. Be honest. If you’ve made a mistake, own it.
Show don’t tell
Show don’t tell is a long-established marketing mantra – show the audience the value in what you do, don’t rely on merely telling them.
The same applies to client-agency relationships. Transparency and accountability aren’t merely qualities to put on a mission statement. They need to be practical and workable.
The benefits are better and stronger working relationships on which you can build a successful brand reputation for your agency.
Genuine collaboration is built on trust. We can show you how this works in practice. We’re a Chester-based marketing agency – please give us a call.