April 22, 2021
Client-agency relationships: The importance of transparency between agencies and their clients
Honesty is the foundation of any strong relationship between an agency and its clients. Whether you work for a branding, design or marketing agency, or are a freelance professional that completes work on behalf of other businesses, being transparent with your customers is essential if you want to retain them. This will help them trust that you have their best interests in mind and that you are doing everything you can to generate the best possible results for them.
Any business can claim that they’re completely transparent with their customers. But, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to go one step further by providing this at every stage of your relationship – not just at the end of the month when you provide your clients with a report of their results.
Put simply, the businesses you work with are trusting you with the thing that’s most important to them: their money. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that they will expect to know exactly where their budget is being spent and why. However, this doesn’t mean that clients should have to ask you for updates on their work because they haven’t heard from you for a while. To make a truly positive impact on your clients, you should be freely offering this information to them without them needing to prompt you – even if what you’re doing for them isn’t gaining the results you hoped.
Here are some of the ways you can improve your agency-client relationships by being as clear and transparent as possible when working with clients.
Set clear and realistic expectations
It might be up to your clients to let you know what results they’re hoping to achieve (so you can suggest the most suitable approaches to take), but it’s your responsibility to ensure that the goals you set together are realistic and attainable. You may be tempted to promise them the earth (especially if your competitors are doing just that), but businesses won’t stick with an agency that overpromises and underdelivers for very long. Instead, they will appreciate you being honest about what you are likely to achieve with their time and budget.
When you first start working with a new client, make sure you have a kickoff meeting to discuss this in detail and ensure that everyone is on the same page from the get-go. Before the meeting, try to gather as much information as you can about the client, such as their business objectives, budget, and expectations in terms of timeframes and results. You should also find out what they have tried in the past and whether this was successful.
In Ayoa, we have a number of free templates to help you plan your projects effectively. Our Client Brief template will help you collate all the information you need both before and during the kickoff meeting as it contains dedicated sections for you to outline the project brief, your client’s goals and objectives, their target audience, your planned actions, how you will measure results, and more. You can also easily share this brief with them by inviting them to the board!
Let them see what you’re working on
The best way to offer your clients complete transparency? Show them exactly what your team is working on for them and when, so you can assure them that the time they pay for is being spent wisely. Although one way you can do this is to send them weekly reports of what has been done so far, an easier solution is to use client collaboration software. This is far more time effective as it gives your in-house team a place to plan projects together, keep track of their deadlines, and share work with their clients.
Ayoa is a collaborative work management tool that makes communicating with clients a breeze. It gives you the ability to use whiteboards and mind maps to brainstorm ideas and draft project plans, and then create dedicated task boards to manage various tasks and projects that you’ll be working on for each client. You can then add helpful information to each task, such as start and due dates, reminders, notes, comments, visual progress indicators, and attachments – and you can even delegate these tasks to others in your team.
Because Ayoa is a collaborative workspace, all you need to do is invite your clients to the board you want to share with them. They can then see everything you’re working on and even add comments to sticky notes on whiteboards, the branches of your mind maps, and the tasks in a task board. To reply directly to their comment, just tag them in your response – this will ensure they are always notified of any updates!
Ask for feedback at various stages
The relationship between your agency and your clients should be a collaborative one if you want to ensure that they are happy with the work that’s being delivered. This is why you should ask them for their feedback as much as possible when brainstorming ideas or making changes to a piece of work. This will help your clients to feel more involved in the process, as well as let them know that you trust their opinions and are open to their guidance.
For many agencies, this process will involve emailing different versions of a mood board, advert design, blog post, or whatever else it is you’re working on to a client, waiting for their feedback, and then sending them the latest version with a request for more feedback. You will then repeat this process as many times as is needed. With multiple different versions of the same document being sent back and forth, it can be easy for important changes to be missed and for work to be delayed. With Ayoa, you can attach a document to a task dedicated to this piece of work, which ensures that everyone has quick and easy access to the most recent version.
When brainstorming ideas on a mind map or whiteboard, your clients can also instantly provide feedback by commenting on the branches of your mind map, or even various elements on your digital whiteboard (such as sticky notes, lists, and files). They can also indicate which ideas they want to move forward with by using the thumbs up feature in the app!
Be honest if something hasn’t worked
No one likes to admit defeat, but this is a key element in offering complete transparency to your clients. Life often throws unexpected obstacles in our way that can cause work to be delayed beyond our control, and in the case of marketing campaigns (in particular), sometimes things simply don’t work how we want them to – no matter how much time and effort has gone into them. This can happen even if our research showed that it should have been successful.
Your clients will know this from working on their own projects and are likely to be understanding – especially if you are able to present them with possible reasons why something didn’t work and provide them with alternative solutions to try going forward. So, don’t wait until the end of the month when you’re sending over their report to discuss where improvements can be made. Flagging these issues as early as possible will give you time to devise potential solutions, which will demonstrate to your clients that you want to ensure they are paying for great results.
One thing that is important to remember is that maintaining frequent communication with your clients is one of the best ways to build strong relationships with them and make your agency more likely to retain them. This could be through phone calls, video meetings, email, or instant messaging (such as Ayoa chat which is built into the app), depending on which medium each client prefers.
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