two men at conference room table

The Secret to a Great Agency + Client Relationship

How many times have you heard that? That there’s no “I” in team. The reality is you rarely accomplish something solo. The people around you–whether working directly or indirectly–give you the strength to forge forward and create, develop, and build.

Agency teams and client marketing departments are no different. The relationships that are formed with these two entities are paramount to successful outputs.  Working together, relying on each other and having the ability to remain honest and direct is a solid recipe for positive, brand building results. 

I remember several years ago when I was client side, I just hired an ad agency to manage one of the brands I was handling. Sales for this particular brand had been declining for quite some time, and we needed a different approach for a saturated category. Something that would break through and create the level of awareness the brand hadn’t seen in awhile. The first round of creative ideas tanked. Way off strategy, and not at all differentiating enough to make the impact we needed. Not an easy conversation to have with people you truly enjoy working with. The agency was great, and our relationship with them was even greater. Imagine telling your best friend that the new outfit she was so happy to be wearing, looked ridiculous on her. That’s the position I was in.

Because I knew the agency could do better–because I knew I could rely on them to work with me and my team to create the breakthrough messaging the brand needed–I had the conversation with them. And, it went great. Together we were able to re-concept a phenomenal branding and traffic driving campaign that helped elevate brand awareness and put the company back on track. Last I checked in, the brand was doing double digits in comparable store sales. Pretty amazing.

So it goes without saying that relying on your team, your partner, your boss, your co-worker, or anyone for that matter to accomplish your goals, is a necessary part of being successful. You’re never alone in anything that you do if you just look around.  There is always someone right there ready to lend a hand.

– Cindy Haynes

listening ear cartoons

What Every Client Wants to Hear

I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read that talk to what “every young account person should know.”  The reality is we all need a swift kick in the keister once in a while – whether you’ve been in the business 25 years or 25 days.  It’s extremely easy to become complacent and take advantage of client/agency relationships, especially when they are of the good, long-standing kind.

But, as quick as the account was once won, it can be lost because the relationship wasn’t as strong as it could have been.  All kinds of issues can be salvaged if the agency/client relationship is solid.  And, who normally leads that charge?  Yep, you guessed it. The account person.

So what can you do, newbie or veteran, to assure you indeed have the relationship that keeps business?  Here’s my client affinity model:

LEARN THEIR BUSINESS – really understand how they make money; what are their margins; ROI is extremely important to them; talk their talk, and more importantly mean it.  You’ll never know as much as they do, but you should push yourself to try.

INITIATE SOLID STRATEGY – from more intricate brand positioning, purpose and voice development to something simpler like creating a brand messaging strategy, ensuring that clients understand its importance is key.  This includes a full evaluation of the brands’ business objectives and KPIs, which are imperative to providing the ongoing monitoring and analytics necessary thus creating more opportunity for sales success.

SALES GROWTH AND… – are you really watching this?  Both overall sales and comparable sales are key to business success.  It’s not just about winning great creative awards, unless of course it’s an Effie.  In that case, you’re probably already using my model.

TRAFFIC INCREASES – whether your goal is to increase visits from current brand ambassadors or drive new trial, growth in this area should be monitored and analyzed consistently.  As we know, customer visits have a direct link to sales, therefore you need to know the brand’s customers – understand them – please them so they return…and bring their friends.

ENGAGE DEEP ON ALL LEVELS – make sure your relationship with your client isn’t superficial.  Every business has layers and layers of systems, processes, products, etc. that can add or detract from its success.  This is especially true inside of franchised businesses.  Local marketing effectiveness relies heavily on solid brand strategy and leadership. Make sure you are neck deep in all of it.

NEVER STOP EVOLVING – great brands get this:  Disney and Madonna are two solid examples.  They continue to evolve and attract new fans/customers without alienating their strong historical existing brand base.  Ensure your clients understand the importance of this.  Lead this charge.  Keep the brand relevant and fresh with continuous consumer insights and innovative media and creative approaches.

Of course no model is complete without an acronym, right?  Can you spot it?


If there’s one thing I hope someone takes away from this post, it’s that.  Please, please, please LISTEN to your clients.  Most often that’s what they are begging for – even internally at their own company. So, give them just that.  The rewards are truly amazing.

– Cindy

live tree vs dead tree

What’s Better - Agency or Client Side?

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo …

Choosing your career path is a big decision – no doubt. But, sometimes life presents you with an opportunity to change that path mid way. And in marketing and advertising, more specifically for account people and marketers, that opportunity is always looming.

So, the big question therein lies – Is one direction better than the other? To answer that, you must ask yourself several questions:

  • Do I have an initial preference, or am I leaning one way more than the other?
  • Do I really understand how the roles/responsibilities differ and how my current skills are/are not transferrable?
  • Is there an opportunity to develop myself and advance my career by “switching sides?”

These are just a few questions to consider. But there are also several myths you must weigh as well.

  • Client side doesn’t always pay more.
  • Client side hours aren’t always better or more structured.
  • Agency side isn’t always as glamorous as it may appear.

The reality is there are truly advantages to experiencing and learning both sides of the business. Personally I have jumped twice to each side. And, each time provided enormous amounts of knowledge that I would not have gained otherwise and that I will continue to share with my staff and with my clients. It has made me appreciate how both sides are extremely similar and extremely different.

I know for a fact (now that I own my own advertising agency) I treat my clients with even more respect than I did in the past. I understand their daily challenges; I empathize with the magnanimous amounts of decisions they make in a day; I feel for the fact that they too don’t always get to spend enough time with their families.

Spending the years on the client side that I did has indeed made me a stronger, more effective account person. I’m honored to have been a part of the growth and marketing strategy developed while I was on the client side, and truly appreciate the tireless energy my account teams expended on me on behalf of the agencies that served our brands.

And now, back on the digital marketing agency side as I continue to grow my own firm, I will pass on this amazing learning and serve our clients in the manner they deserve. I will entrench myself in their marketing strategy, understand how they make money and drive customer traffic and trial and make them even more successful than they are today with stand out creative work that will blow…their…minds!

– Cindy Haynes