Marketing communicates, obviously. It’s a language. But marketing success isn’t only dependent on speaking this language to prospects, customers and clients.
How external marketing agencies communicate with in-house marketing departments is critical to successful outcomes.
We’re a marketing agency based in Chester. We know the bedrock of good working relationships is trust.
But as an agency, we also know we can’t take this trust for granted. We’ve got to earn it by:
- Delivering on our client’s expectations, and
- Doing this consistently.
We can ONLY achieve these things with open and clear communication channels.
So, what must we do to establish and maintain these channels?
Here are 5 essential ways to build trust with clear communication.
1. Be honest
Solid relationships are built on honesty.
According to Campaign research, honesty is the second-most important factor driving growth in partnerships between brands and agencies.
The first factor is strategic thinking, but strategies depend on trust and understanding from the outset.
It boils down to this:
Say what you mean.
- On the client side, if you’re unsure about any aspect of the agency’s approach, say so. If you feel they’ve misunderstood or misinterpreted you, your objectives or the brief itself, tell them.
- On the agency side, make sure you’re getting a clear picture of the client’s business and its marketing capacity – what areas does it lack resources or expertise? Where will you be most helpful? Are there any aspects of the work that seem vague?
Consider the cultural fit. Can you see yourselves collaborating?
The more transparent you are from the start, the easier it is to get a good idea of whether this whole thing will work.
2. Listen actively
Active listening represents a set of skills that support and enhance clear, open communication:
- Pay attention to the speaker
- Show you’re listening
- Offer feedback
- Don’t judge until they’ve finished speaking
- Respond appropriately.
With active listening, you’re giving the speaker the space to be heard, so that they feel validated.
It means resisting the urge to jump in and offer your opinion until you’ve heard, digested and understood the message.
The more we all listen, the better we can have genuine, mutually respectful conversations.
It also highlights the importance of relationships on a human, one-to-one level. We can talk about agencies and in-house teams collaborating, but the chemistry that makes this happen is between people.
3. Don’t over-promise
It’s become an unfortunate industry cliché that agencies over-promise and under-deliver.
The stark reality is that over-promising will sour any relationship and make genuine collaboration difficult, if not impossible.
Of course, in the drive to win work, there may be a temptation to butter up the prospective client with extravagant claims.
But the truth comes out in the end.
Therefore, agencies must be realistic.
At the start:
- Only pitch what you can deliver
- Be open about what the budget can achieve.
Throughout the process:
- Be transparent about costs
- Share information.
Similarly, for clients, honesty requires that you’re clear about:
- What you want to achieve
- Your budget
- Your expectations.
4. Set the right tone
Relationships grow, but they need clarity from all sides from the very beginning.
The nub is this: the best marketing relationships between agencies and in-house departments are partnerships.
If the relationship is confined to supplier and client, it lacks that spark of collaboration to drive it.
Yes, you could be a trusted supplier, but marketing is all about ideas. Ideas develop best when you put them into a melting pot and stir vigorously.
But who’s stirring the pot? Both sets of teams – agency and client – should lend a hand.
If your working relationship starts with one side stepping back, folding its arms as if to say, “Go on then, impress me”, the barriers are already up.
Trust comes from mutual respect, a willingness to listen and an openness to alternative perspectives.
Set this tone early to reap the benefits throughout.
5. Communicate consistently and with continuity
Consistent communication is as important as clear communication.
It’s knowing you can reach people when you need them and that everyone involved is fully up-to-date and engaged with the process.
Continuity is critical too – the client wants the reassurance that the people they talked to first and briefed are the same people working on their project.
And the agency needs a clear point of contact from the client – multiple sources of feedback and revisions cause confusion and slow progress.
- Who will the client be talking to when they call the agency?
- How should the agency update the client routinely?
- What tools or platforms will ensure consistent and clear communication?
- What channels should the client use to provide feedback and revisions?
Agreeing and setting up these systems at the briefing stage clarifies the communications around a project and sets the foundations for building crucial relationships.
Trust the process
Successful marketing relationships are collaborative. Good collaboration is built on trust. Transparent, consistent communications foster this trust.
We’re a marketing agency in Chester. We believe in collaborating to compete. We’d love to work with you.
Contact us and we’ll get back to you ASAP.