Transparency and Communication: The Foundation of Client-Agency Relations

by | Mar 25, 2019 | JFG News

In any relationship, there can be challenges, and it’s as true of our friendships and love lives as it is in marketing partnerships. Often the problems come down to perceived or actual failures to be open, honest and fair with one another, which is why it’s important to always keep in mind the two pillars that create a solid foundation for any relationship – transparency and communication.

These tenets are a two-way street in the world of marketing, with both clients and agencies responsible for being clear about their goals, expectations, strategies and results. We’ve already discussed the importance of this in ROI – return on investment – and measuring an agency’s success, but let’s take a closer look at some of the most common marketing requests and how both parties can cultivate a thriving relationship.

Television Advertising

Television ads are still one of the most common ways that brands can reach out to an audience in their marketplace. Nearly everyone watches TV – or at least some form of it, when we include the millions who have moved to streaming platforms and digital media. Fortunately, there are ways to reach potential customers no matter where or how they watch, and an agency can help to get you there.

Television AdvertisingWhat a Client Can Expect

There is always an expense involved in producing a new video spot, with agencies needing to work with the client to identify the goal and message for the commercial before proceeding with the creative process. This will involve many steps, including concept development, writing a script, getting it approved, arranging filming and editing, coordinating talent to act in the ad, and finally placing it on the desired networks or broadcast stations. There’s a lot that goes into creating a promotion, and clients and agencies both need to keep that in mind in terms of budgeting and expectations going into the process.

As a client, you also want to know that you’re receiving good placement and coverage to ensure that your advertisements are reaching the right audience. Your agency should be able to break down for you what programs or platforms your ad is placed on, what time slots it appears in (for broadcast networks), what kind of coverage you can expect (for digital placements) and what the costs are for placement. Your media placement schedule should outline the relevant demographic information for your campaign, including details on the delivery to your target audience or expected number of impressions over the course of the campaign.

What Your Agency Will Expect from You

In kind, your agency will want to get some information back from you on how the campaign is performing. This may include reporting on people who call or visit your business who mention the commercial or a promo code (if used), or how many new appointments you scheduled or how many additional sales were made during the runtime of the campaign.

These details are critical to gauging the success of a given spot, and being transparent with your results can help your agency decide whether a campaign was a success, failure or in need of further refinement. Your agency should also be able to provide a final report after the conclusion of a campaign that incorporates the information you can share on performance, helping you decide whether or not to continue with the campaign, expand or reduce your investment, or look to add or reinvest into a different marketing channel.

Digital Advertising  

In the online marketplace, visibility is key. You need potential customers to see your brand and click to your website if you have any chance of growing your audience. More now than ever before, consumers research brands, products and service offerings online before choosing a vendor – and digital advertising, such as banner ads, pre-roll or paid search, can help a brand increase their visibility online.

What a Client Can Expect

Offering a typically lower cost of entry than some traditional marketing channels, investment in digital advertising is growing. Ads can be produced quite simply and affordably, especially for text-only ad placements, but you want to make sure that your online ads are delivering the right results.

When placing digital ads, your agency will work with you to identify the target demographics, helping to ensure that your placements are reaching the right audience, the right geographic area and the right users. Your agency should be able to deliver a report on the performance of any digital creative placement showing you how many impressions and clicks as well as the cost per click to help illustrate how competitive or costly certain targeting may be. This gives you tangible data on the reach and performance of the campaign and offers some guidelines on what can be improved, added or changed, or completely dropped.

What Your Agency Will Expect from You

At the other end, your agency will want to know how the campaign is performing for both your website and your bottom line. This may include requesting access to your digital analytics to see how the campaign measures up as part of your website’s overall traffic and how visitors from paid campaigns interact online compared with other visitors. An agency may also ask for any data you might have on how the campaign resulted in an increase in calls, bookings or sales.

Digital campaigns can often be tracked in a more granular way than offline sales, meaning that visitors to the website can be matched to conversions with analytic software. This may require working with your website provider to add code or providing a sales update to your agency based on data available through your online sales platform or offline CRM system. The agency’s success is built on the client’s success, so seeing how a campaign performs is a vital part of understanding what works, what doesn’t and how to do even better the next time.

Billboard, Bus & Transit Shelter AdvertisingOutdoor Advertising

Billboards, bus advertising (interior or exterior) and transit shelters are some of the most common ways to reach a broad audience within a given metropolitan area. Billboards and bus exteriors can reach commuters on their way to or from work, while bus interiors and bus shelter advertising can share your brand’s message with riders on public transportation. Placement of outdoor campaigns can be tailored to reach a certain geographic area or percentage of total marketplace viewers, and is often a great additional channel alongside other marketing campaigns on digital or video platforms, working to continue and reinforce an overall messaging campaign.

What a Client Can Expect

Clients who are adding outdoor ads to their marketing plan with an existing agency relationship can benefit from a more streamlined process in creative design. Your agency will already be familiar with your branding, logo and general style standards, making it a faster process to design the ad creative. New clients, on the other hand, should expect a bit more initial development to create a look. Agencies also often have existing relationships with media partners to help negotiate more competitive pricing and more desirable placement terms and can help advise the client on what the greatest impact would be for the available budget.

Whether you’re a new or existing client, however, the agency media buyer will become the client’s new best friend, working in tandem with the client to identify the target demographic and key geographic areas. Working with an agency media buyer offers a wealth of access and information to a client when placing outdoor ads. This will include specific areas or neighborhoods that may be more pertinent to the consumer audience, as well as any consideration of age groups, economic status, ethnic diversity and other factors.

What Your Agency Will Expect from You

From the agency perspective, a client should expect to discuss the goals of the campaign. For instance, branding campaigns will have different messaging and placement goals than a sales campaign. That will also drive a different set of placements, with branding wanting to focus on more broad and high-traffic areas and sales ad placements targeted to specific buying groups or locations near a retail location. The media buyer at the agency should also be able to share details on the costs and advantages for different placements, and provide advice to help you determine what the best investment is for your marketing dollars.

The agency will also want to get feedback from you on any measurable gain that came from the branding campaign. This may mean encouraging cashiers or reception staff to ask consumers where they heard about your business or organization, or taking a closer stock of your foot traffic, appointment scheduling or overall sales to measure any increase. You may also use a promo code or incentive with the ads that can make it easy to tie sales directly with the campaign. As with any campaign, it’s critical to understand the impact it had on your business to gauge success or opportunities to further improve.

SEO Agency and Client Relationship

Search Engine Optimization

Finally, one of the leading marketing efforts for brands today is investing in SEO – search engine optimization. This work is performed both on your website and on other sites in an effort to increase your visibility in search results, drive more traffic to your site and increase conversions, which can take a few different forms, depending on your site. Unlike many types of marketing, SEO is typically done as an ongoing process with work that evolves from month to month as different needs arise, changes are required to adjust to changes in search algorithms, or new seasonal priorities or sales incentives change your priorities as a client.

What a Client Can Expect

As you start with SEO, you start in an exercise in trust. Your agency will typically require access to your website as an administrator to install plugins and perform back-end editing to optimize page information and performance for search performance. They will also need access to measuring tools like analytics accounts or related properties like your Google My Business page or Bing credentials. This is often a nervous point for new clients, but remember that a reputable SEO agency has done this for many other clients in the past, and they know what they are doing. When you take your car to the shop for repairs, you put the keys in the hands of a professional – you do the same for your site when you work with an SEO agency.

Your agency will also want to start by discussing the overall goals you have for your website. This will include identifying what your business model is and what types of terms or phrases you should be appearing for in search. It also means defining what success looks like – more visitors, more sales, more calls – and quite likely a further refinement of what is considered a conversion for your site. For some, this will be increased sales or an uptick in appointment booking, while for sites that don’t offer online selling or scheduling, increasing form downloads or contact form submissions may be the goal.

What Your Agency Will Expect from You

In the first days and weeks after the start of an SEO campaign, there will often be a lot of back and forth conversation between your agency consultant and the client contact. This will include troubleshooting any access problems, defining and refining the list of keywords and phrases that are most relevant and getting any needed approvals or revisions on content additions, changes or removals. All of this lays the foundation for the work ahead.

As the work progresses, you should expect to see positive growth in your overall web metrics. This means an increase in your tracked keyword positioning, more conversions – as defined at the outset of your plan – and an increase in traffic to the website. Your agency should also be able to provide you with a regular report on how things are progressing – quarterly at a minimum, or ideally on a monthly basis. The lines of communication should also stay open, with any major updates or changes at either the client’s end or urgent or large-scale updates planned by the SEO specialist shared with the other party to keep everyone in the loop.

A Culture of Partnership

Regardless of the campaign or effort, however, the same two core needs continue to be the refrain – transparency and communication. A client shouldn’t trust a marketing firm that cannot provide clear reporting on results or costs, or one that is never in touch to discuss needs, how campaigns are performing or identify future needs. That goes hand in hand with communication. You need someone who understands you’re working to make a profit, and will be regularly working with you to share new ideas, anticipating your needs and identifying opportunities and ways for your organization to succeed.

But, again – it is a two-way street. Clients need to understand that marketing agencies, too, are businesses. Creative development, placement of advertising, reporting and working on your behalf is time that marketing staff invests for your benefit, and a cost that needs to be met as part of your budget. Agencies and businesses work on a mutually symbiotic relationship – the agency works to help the business succeed, and the business’ success can lead to new opportunities for the agency to build upon those results.

Building up brands is building up relationships, and those relationships rely on understanding that both parties want the same end result – achieved goals, increased sales and overall growth. If that’s not what you’re seeing in your marketing relationship, it might be time for a breakup and to try someone new. They say there’s plenty of fish in the sea, and if your marketing relationship isn’t helping you draw them into your net, perhaps it’s time to throw them back and find someone who will.

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About J. Fitzgerald Group

JFG is an advertising and marketing agency located in Lockport, NY. JFG has helped businesses and organizations create and execute effective marketing strategies for 20+ years.