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Client—Agency Relationships: Winning Client Commitment Workshop

Published on Thursday, 15th June 2017

Professor Tim Hughes and Dr Mario Vafeas from Bristol Business School UWE ran a half day workshop on Tuesday 13th June with 55 delegates. They have been exploring the current state of the typical client-agency relationship for the last four years, using a combination of one-to-one interviews, focus groups, workshops and survey questionnaires. Respondents have included clients, agency account managers, and creatives. This latest round of research asked the question: “What do clients want from their marketing agencies?” and the aim of the workshop was to present the views from clients and consider what agencies could do to add value to the relationship.

The workshop was highly interactive with the delegates discussing the six Cs - relating to what clients want from their agencies in relation to what can agencies do to improve the value they offer and what do agencies need from their clients in order to be effective.

There were many good ideas put forward to help agencies get a better understanding of their clients world. A big issue in this was about creating the time and space to invest in this. It requires the client to be willing to give access to information and also to appropriate stakeholders.

Content is becoming increasingly important and agencies have much to offer based on their creative resources. It is important to share ideas within the agency to fully use the talents of everybody. Sometimes the agency needs to challenge the client and be a ‘critical friend’. This requires trust and openness on the part of the client.

The frequency style and method of contact is important to client. The discussion in the workshop stressed the need to understand how different clients like to work and communicate. Clients need to share their communication preferences with agencies.

Agencies can help their clients to be more effective by recognising the client’s deficiencies and supporting the client to become ‘a better client’. Much of the discussion related to the briefing process and how to improve client input.   

A common complaint, particularly from smaller clients, was that the agency gave the impression that the client was not important to them. More than ever, in the age of digital communications, agencies need to develop strong personal relationships with clients.  

This is a very contentious issue and a range of issues were discussed in relation to how agencies can charge fully for the work put in and the value added.

A lot of ground was covered in the workshop with great feedback and interaction from the delegates providing lively discussions during the morning.  Thanks to everyone involved for their input to this debate.