Breaking up is hard to do

Even the most secure, long-lasting agency/client relationships can break down.  Why? These are my top ten reasons.  Some you can avoid, some just happen.


1.    Different expectations. Set clear targets at an agreed cost then everyone understands when the project is going well and problems are obvious at an early stage.

2.    Personnel changes.  A working relationship is largely about people. If the people change, so does the relationship. When someone new comes on board, take time to get to know them and keep an open mind.  The relationship will be different, but it may be better.

3.    Lack of communication.  Emails are great for issuing instructions or reports but they  do not constitute communication.  Pick up the phone, meet face to face. Only then do you get the value of collaboration - ideas and solutions emerge as you discuss an issue, exchange ideas, and move a project on effectively.  

4.    Mission creep.  Of course your agency will do favours and add extras to help out.  The problem arises when that little extra task added in as a one-off becomes an established part of the work programme without the cost ever being discussed.  Repeat the process several times over the course of months or years and even if you are the agency's favourite client, even if you are the largest client, you can end up in a situation where your agency actually can't afford to work for you. Sensible, regular conversations about money are important: negotiation is the name of the game and no-one wants a valuable relationship to break down over money.

5.    Quality.  Agencies want to deliver the best quality work - trust me, they really do. If quality issues start to creep in then don't ignore them, arrange a meeting with a senior member of the team and discuss them.  Be specific, use examples and allow the agency time to respond. They will want to fix things.  

6.    Lack of teamwork. Agency/client relationships work best when we are working as a team, capitalising on our different strengths and recognising that we have a collective responsibility to deliver great results.  We're on the same side and succeed or fail together.  If it doesn't feel that way then there is already a problem.  

7.    Lack of recognition. Every manager knows that staff work much better when they are appreciated and this applies equally to the agency and marketing team. Words of thanks or encouragement can go a long way and success incentives built into the fee structure can be a good way of relating success to financial reward.

8.    Fatigue. Doing the same thing gets dull.  Make sure you take the time at least once a year to review the whole account and allow the agency to approach it from scratch suggesting a whole fresh approach.

9.    Takeover.  Your company is acquired by someone else who has different views on agency support.  Your precious long term agency partner is suddenly at risk.  It happens - keep the agency up to date and give them as much time as possible to prepare for all eventualities.

10.    Staff nabbing.  A sure-fire way to lose an agency's trust

Posted by Anna Hern