Getting to great work starts and ends with a trusting and collaborative relationship.
The most memorable modern marketing campaigns (the Geico Gecko or Progressive’s Flo come to mind) are the ones that play off relatable, human interactions and remind audiences a bit of themselves. These and other popular advertising mascots show us that, behind the brands we trust, there are people with personalities and ambitions just like us, and we bond with them emotionally.
But one-on-one connection (simulated or otherwise) doesn’t just play a role in the final commercial, print ad or radio spot; it’s a crucial tenet across the entire marketing lifecycle. Great business is built on strong and trusted client-account relationships that form with time, patience and dedication.
In my 20-plus years in account-based work, I’ve found that behind every award-winning marketing campaign is an account team that’s committed to maintaining a healthy and collaborative relationship with the client.
Here are six relationship-based approaches every account team should take toward delivering top-notch work for clients.
Communicate and over-communicate.
Nothing leads to a great relationship than clear communication. If everyone understands each client request, its individual components and the implementation plan, the resulting product will be more cohesive and powerful.
Consider Commander’s Intent, a military principle by which leaders outline the who, what, when, where and why (five W’s) of a mission’s execution plan. While your approach to team-based organization may differ slightly, the longstanding success of Commander’s Intent demonstrates the usefulness of detail-oriented planning and communication.
Communication also enables deepened personal relationships with the client, making them to feel seen and appreciated for their vision and goals. This requires patience (it took months to break through to one of my most demanding former clients), but the quality content and friendships that result are well worth it.
Keep an open mind.
Great ideas can come from anywhere. Whether a spectacular vision for a marketing campaign comes from you, the client or the most junior member of your account team, don’t ignore it, especially based on seniority. It may just become your client’s next great claim to fame.
Be detail oriented.
Details are the backbone of any successful process. Account leaders should take the time to develop and implement protocols and tools for every team member, so that even the minutiae of a client-facing project are fully addressed. From holding kickoff meetings, briefs and check-ins to setting deadlines and conducting follow-ups, each step in the process pays dividends when executed well.
Not every marketing project can be award-worthy, but it’s an account leader’s job to believe it can be and look for ways to make it so. By showing enthusiasm, providing the tools and language needed to succeed and removing team members’ barriers to success, leaders create an environment most likely to foster greatness.
Even when a client gives undesirable feedback or a final product doesn’t remotely resemble its far superior storyboard, take the challenge or disappointment as a learning opportunity. The lesson learned will ultimately fuel the quality of your next piece of creative or content.
Keeping a client up to speed on the agency team’s every development ensures nobody is left in the dark, waiting to be delivered a product that’s vastly different than what was initially pitched. Meanwhile, providing clear expectations for team members and welcoming all questions, doubts and requests for help creates trust on the account side. The best work happens when even the most outlandish ideas can be freely and comfortably shared.
Be honest and direct.
Don’t be overly sensitive or cautious with your feedback — we’re all adults, so let’s treat each other that way. Understanding one another’s priorities, even if those priorities clash at first, is the first step toward aligning the client’s goals with that of the account team.
And if someone in your charge delivers sub-par work, the most helpful response is always constructive criticism, never disingenuous praise. Otherwise, you put the quality of the final product — and thus the client relationship — at risk.
Getting great work can seem increasingly complex with so many marketing tools and tactics at your disposal, but it can and should be pretty simple by following these steps. While it’s the account team’s responsibility, every agency team member — creative, strategy, media, etc. — can apply these key principles to improve outcomes and outputs of any client relationship. After all, we’re all in this together.