Giving feedback to employees is central to successful organisations. In its evidence review, CIPD has this to say about it:
When delivered well, feedback can be a highly effective way to improve performance.
For marketing agencies and their clients, constructive feedback is just as crucial.
A client-agency relationship that didn’t have its ups and downs would be a very rare thing. There will always be times when things don’t quite align or the agency’s answer to the brief fails to meet the client’s expectations.
What happens next is critical in the relationship.
- Firstly, the only useful type of feedback is constructive. The onus is on the client to point out where they think the agency has missed the target or misinterpreted the brief but also to explain why.
- Secondly, when the client gives constructive feedback, the agency can use this positively. Constructive feedback provides an opportunity rather than an obstacle – it supports improvement and growth.
We’re a marketing agency in Chester. Here are our thoughts on how constructive feedback helps us build relationships with clients and grow a culture of continuous improvement.
What makes feedback constructive?
There are two vital qualities of constructive feedback. It needs to be:
- Meaningful, and
When someone gives constructive feedback, their judgement should provide the person on the receiving end with suggestions for making positive changes.
Constructive feedback can be negative – if the person giving feedback doesn’t like something they need to be clear and honest about it.
On the flip side, you’ve got destructive feedback. Basically, this is expressing a dislike of something, or holding negative opinions, neither justifying them nor offering guidance.
In client-agency relationships, constructive feedback is essential for achieving desired outcomes of projects and building the bonds that drive these outcomes. It enhances partnerships between in-house marketing departments and the agencies they work with.
How to give constructive feedback
The key qualities that make constructive feedback work for the giver and recipient, are transparency, openness and positivity.
- Take a positive approach – constructive feedback may be negative, but the intention should always be positive.
- Be specific – feedback should zoom in on the details. If, for example, the client feels the tone of a piece of content is wrong, they should highlight precisely when and where this comes across.
- Explain – when giving feedback, it’s crucial to try and explain why something seems wrong or out of place.
- Explore outcomes – Focus on what’s achievable and what you want to happen when the feedback is acted on – look for defined, measurable results.
- Clarify takeaways – it’s enormously helpful if both the giver and receiver of constructive feedback confirm what’s been discussed, including action points.
Timelines and tone
When giving constructive feedback, along with the what and why, when is important too
The client needs to give the agency enough time to respond and act on their feedback. In turn, the agency should respond swiftly, acknowledging the feedback and showing a willingness to act on it.
Both client and agency must maintain a professional tone throughout and avoid being confrontational.
It’s unrealistic not to expect people’s egos to feel bruised sometimes, but it’s always worth remembering that feedback is primarily about the work and what the client hopes to achieve.
The marketing or creative agency must manage the client’s expectations. Responding to and acting on feedback is fundamental to this.
Sometimes, the client’s feedback can reveal unrealistic or unclear expectations on the client’s part. The agency’s response can help reset these expectations and get the project back on track.
Similarly, the agency may have strayed too far from the brief when exploring creative solutions. The feedback will help to bring it back towards the brief’s requirements.
A two-way process
Marketing doesn’t occur in a vacuum. If we’re serious about our growth, we’ve got to keep giving clients what they need. We have to engage with them meaningfully and openly.
At the same time, we know that the most successful client-agency relationships are collaborative. In this context, constructive feedback is a two-way process:
- The client’s responses to our work help us better understand who they are and what they want to achieve.
- How we receive and act on this feedback solidifies our relationship with the client, allowing us to revisit and clarify the brief and how it reflects their business objectives.
At our Chester-based marketing agency, constructive feedback drives our continuous improvement and reinforces our growth mindset.