Just like any relationship, the relationship between marketing agency and client can be a rollercoaster. For every high, like a campaign launch or a string of high-value conversions, there’s a low to match — an awkward status update meeting or tense last-minute edits, to name a few.
As seasoned marketers we’ve been in our fair share of client relationships, both “celebratory drinks, on me!” good and “is the bar open this early on a Tuesday?” bad. We’re no couples counselors, but we’ve put together a list of red flags for marketers and their clients to look out for at every stage of a project— and what to do about them.
The problem: Service-based companies like marketing agencies exchange time for money — no surprises there. Every second spent turning attention to a specific project is time not spent addressing the others you’ve got on your plate. In extreme cases, that can mean a lot of money down the drain.
Marketing relationships really purr when both agency and client are equally committed to hitting the ground running. The moment when one side drops the ball — be it through ignoring emails or procrastinating on deliverables — is when things start to get frustrating and costly.
The underlying factor here is that your project isn’t the only thing on our plate, or on yours. That means it’s mutually beneficial for marketers and clients to set clear expectations to prioritize the project so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
The solution: Everyone’s time is valuable, and that’s true on both the marketer’s side and the client’s.
Here are some tips so that both sides of the equation can get what they need:
Tips for clients:
When you have a request, come prepared with all the details your marketing partners will need to get the job done. Prepare for a back and forth, and set time on your calendar to provide feedback in a timely manner. Remember: you’re our priority if we’re yours.
What to send over with your request:
Tips for marketers:
Clients have a hundred different things going on daily that’s outside of this project. It’s on us to set clear expectations every step of the way, so clients know what you’ll need for success.
At Kicks, we often send out weekly wrap-up emails on Friday that outline every facet of the project. This way, our clients understand what we need from them, and the timeline implications if there are any setbacks.
What to include in a weekly recap:
The problem: Depending on which side of the marketer/client relationship you’re on, project deadlines can feel way too close for comfort or frustratingly slow. On the other side of the coin, the cost to take your project from concept to completion can either feel like a steal or a total ripoff.
The solution: A lot of the time, this comes down to a lack of open communication about what goes into bringing a project to life. Let’s break it down on the actual cost of marketing timelines:
The time to set expectations about costs and timelines is at the onset of the marketer/client relationship — not when deadlines are breathing down your neck. Pull the hours spent on previous projects and quantify them, so that everyone at the table understands the realistic cost and time associated with particular deliverables.
Adding hours or budget to a retainer can be an awkward situation, but in our experience it’s a lot better to get that tough conversation out of the way instead of bashing your heads against unrealistic expectations every month. Do the hard thing and set yourselves up for success down the road.
The problem: In practice, marketing projects can be all-hands-on-deck at any stage of production — but in an ideal world, writers get all the copy 100% squared away before they bundle it up with a bow on top and pass it to design.
Why? Well, here are some reasons for starters:
The solution: If you’re making huge copy changes late in the game, it’s a sign that you need to Implement an official review process and stick to it.
It’s on the marketing agency to clearly outline the review process, and what’s needed from the client at each stage. In the image below, you’ll see Kicks’ standard review process for most projects that we paste at the top of all relevant Google Docs. It’s detailed, requires sign-off from both parties in the form of check boxes, and makes sure there’s no room for misinterpretation.
This document will go through two rounds of edits before it is considered Final. Kicks and the Client will check the appropriate box below when this document is ready for the other party’s review.
The problem: Sometimes marketers nail design in one fell swoop, and other times we have to go back to the drawing board. Revisions are part of life in any marketing relationship, but when design gets stalled it’s often the sign that direction isn’t as clear as it could be.
When a client isn’t sure about where they want to go visually or feels an immediate negative response to the work they’re being shown, feedback usually sounds something like “I don’t like this one” or “I hate red.”
While that’s valuable feedback on some level, the more specific a client is with their feedback on design, the quicker we can hit the nail on the head and make progress toward our mutual goal.
The solution: Visualizing what design changes you want can be difficult at times, especially if you’re not the most creative person — that’s okay, that’s why you hired us! The important thing is that we build a collaborative client/designer relationship that allows us both to discuss what’s working and what’s not.
Here are some tips on how to give actionable feedback to your designer, so you’ll never have to say “I’ll know what I like when I see it” ever again:
The problem: Great news — you hired a marketing agency to build your website! Bad news — that move raised the hackles of the people you’ve previously hired to manage IT for you, whether they’re a full-time staff member or a third-party vendor.
To build and launch a successful website, it takes your agency, your internal IT department, and your other tech partners working together in lock step. Nine times out of ten people are great to work with, but if someone throws a monkey wrench in the process to justify their position or value to your organization, it’s going to have lasting repercussions for your site.
The solution: The solution here is always to rope in the decision maker or point person and work through the issue together. Without one person calling the shots, it’s easy for the web build to devolve into he-said-she-said nonsense that delays your launch time and creates problems on your back end.
At Kicks we often talk directly with IT folks and vendors to get to the bottom of tech issues. Sometimes those calls go super smoothly, but other times we’re left more confused than before we picked up the phone. In our experience, looping the head honcho in on those calls makes direction a lot clearer.
Not only do our client decision makers have the historical knowledge and a knack for sticking to the process — they also have a knack for cutting through egos and getting everyone back on the same page. In short, when in doubt, toss one more person on that meeting invite and you’ll be golden.
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