There’s a great post from Whitehat SEO. It outlines the many benefits of working with an agency and how to go about selecting one.
What it doesn’t include, however, are tips on how to avoid the challenges we sometimes see clients face after the appointment stage. You know, when the buzz of onboarding and the honeymoon period has worn off and the partnership and strategies that looked as though they’d work so seamlessly on paper start to feel like an uphill struggle.
Why does this happen?
In my experience, during the proposal process, clients are understandably focussed on finding an agency that matches well with their priorities and has the right team for the job.
They craft watertight RFPs, scoring criteria, and creative briefs. They invest huge amounts of time and resource into weeks, often months, conducting calls and meetings.
But what is often missed is how the client’s roles, structures, internal resource, and expertise and expectations will impact delivery. Those turn into blind spots for the agencies involved and perhaps for the end-users client side.
We unearth some of these things during onboarding and sometimes allowances can be made, models redesigned, and projections reworked. But it inevitably takes the shine off an exciting new partnership and makes both parties feel exposed and uncertain.
But things can be done to mitigate these issues. Here we have three key areas where a client sponsor/procurement lead can reflect and factor in the nuances of their business to avoid those blind spots and have a better chance of the winning service working as well in practice as in theory.
1. Are restrictions on business objectives clear?
Every agency wants to align as closely as possible with prospective clients’ objectives. Not everyone will be able to work around unconventional governance models, reactive reporting pace, or fragmented attribution models. Especially if they are unaware of those things prior to pitching.
Clients can avoid that by sharing the frustrations and limitations of their business model, the complexity of their reporting structure, and limitations in their data accessibility. That way, an agency can build a model which will not only account for challenges but may actually be able to solve some of them.
Or work through these things constructively internally and have strategies in place to minimise their impact on the agreed work agency side.
If a client needs a step-change in conversions but can’t make structural changes to their site, they should make that clear. If a strategy includes link building, but there are difficulties uploading content on site, there needs to be an upfront conversation.
No agency wants to have to tell a client that they are behind on projections, even if it is out of their control. So, clients can help them save face and save themselves some pain, time, and money by highlighting the restrictions beforehand. Some innovative alternatives might be offered in return!
2. Has buy-in commitment of the leadership team been secured?
It is usually easy to get the buy-in of client leadership teams when they’re presented with a tangible opportunity to improve acquisition and retention, enhance reporting capabilities, or improve market share.
What is hard, is getting true commitment and a willingness to stay the course when achieving those goals demands a shift in culture and behaviours, or even an acceptance that budgets may need to be entirely realigned or even reworked to see ROI.
Clients could stress test senior sponsors’ commitment. Are they unconvinced? A prospective agency can advise how they could support this and get the experts in front of the business to help secure that assurance at the earliest possible stage.
That way, if a client needs an agency to support with other challenging business cases or help with educating and informing their business, the agency is already accepted as a trusted advisor and client-side teams get the support they need to get things done.
3. What does the wrong agency look like?
Clients know their business better than anyone and will instinctively understand what won’t fit with a culture or brand – where brave proposals won’t be approved, or challenges won’t be well received or even tolerated.
Don’t want formal governance meetings and lengthy reports? That should be shared.
Don’t speak tech and don’t want all the jargon on reports? That’s fine.
Surfacing these things early will reduce the risk of relationship strain and frustrations further down the line and avoid clients being reluctantly stuck in an agreement with nowhere to go for several months.
Edit believes in Unity, Clarity, and Curiosity and will always look for partnerships with businesses willing to be challenged and receptive to our many questions and explorations into their customer universe.
Beyond that? We live for results and believe that by considering these questions as part of an agency/partner appointment, prospective clients be in with a great chance of achieving theirs.
Want to know more about how Edit help clients acquire and retain more customers? Get in touch!