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Voice of the Valley: Seven Steps to a Strong Agency Relationship

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Ours is a service business, which means we are usually the ones asking clients, “How can we help you?” But on occasion, the situation is reversed. A thoughtful client asks, “How can we help your team? What can we do to make you successful?”

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We’re always grateful to be asked. It means a client views us as a partner, not a vendor, and is committed to our success. It’s a question that binds us even more tightly to a client, one that recognizes that we do our best work in a duet, not as a soloist.

So … how can you help us?

1. Set clear goals and measure against them

Sharp clients know that it is critical to set clear goals with an agency at the outset of the relationship. They also know that we’ll need to work together to tune those goals along the way based on what we learn together. Crisply defined goals give us focus. And measuring regularly against those goals spurs the honest conversations that keep us on the right path – or prompt us to change that path.

2. Stay invested

To get the very best results from an agency, the client must be actively and continuously involved in both strategy development and execution. Great work won’t come from a “set and forget” approach. Instead, the client should serve as an ongoing thought partner, work with us on campaign execution and give us the feedback we need to improve our work. Close and regular coordination with a client partner is essential for agency success.

3. Be patient

Savvy client partners know that communications programs can take time to pay off. Our work isn’t online direct marketing, where campaigns on sources like Google can be turned on or off – or lead volumes tripled — with just a few clicks. A well-executed SEO campaign can take weeks to improve organic search results. A smart, effective executive visibility program can take months to change a market’s perception of your company’s CEO. We promise you we’ll hustle, that we’ll drive progress as fast as we can. But if you can be patient as we do so, it will give us the breathing room we need to deliver the results we all want.

4. Live the brand

We’ll need strong spokespeople to communicate your messages to customers, whether that means through traditional media interviews or podcasts, through blog posts or on stage. You will need to “live the brand,” and this takes time – time to prepare, practice and deliver these messages. It also may require travel. As your agency partner, we can media train you, rehearse interviews, help you craft blog posts and edit your videos (no one needs to know that it took you three takes to nail your presentation). But no matter how much heavy lifting we do on your behalf, success is still intimately linked to your commitment to spend time becoming and serving as an effective corporate spokesperson.

5. Be our champion

No matter how closely tied we may be to you and your company, we’ll never know the ”ins-and-outs” of life at your company like you do. For example, you may know that your VP of Sales has an inordinate amount of influence over other functional areas – including marketing. You may understand that engineering is short-staffed, which means there is no way they can hit the delivery dates they’re promising. You may realize that your colleague is poised to quit – which will decimate your company’s analyst relations programs. In short, you are “inside the tent.” You not only have the knowledge but also the influence to impact how people evaluate the success of communications programs. So, for example, if a lack of engineers is going to delay a launch, we need not only for you to tell us this, but also to make sure that your colleagues understand why the launch has slipped – and how we’re going to manage this in our communications.

6. Remember – we’re not engineers

In San Francisco and Silicon Valley, we often deal with start-up founders who are software engineers. On occasion, we see them get frustrated trying to explain their product to people who aren’t techies. That’s not our background… but be patient with us. We’re outstanding communicators. If you can help us understand what you’re doing and why it matters, we can help you to tell your story effectively to the world.

7. Be candid

To do great work for you, we need candid feedback. Objective, data-driven performance feedback will help us to tune our work as needed, so that we nail the goals that we set out to achieve together. Whether at home or at work, honesty is at the heart of all strong relationships. This is the kind of relationship we want with you and your company, so please be direct.

Check out some of our other ‘Voice of the Valley’ blogs below:

Voice of the Valley: SMB Accounting: Sparring for Success

Voice of the Valley: The Growing Need for Tech PR “Coopetition”

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