Every relationship you have and make in life is important – for good or bad. Every relationship has the potential to be a long term thing, not just a one-time event. Every relationship can be mutually beneficial if you allow them to be. These things hold true for personal and professional relationships alike. The reality of life is that whether intentional or not, relationships are challenging. Many of them fail. But for every relationship that fails, there is a relationship that is strong because it is built on a strong foundation of trust and transparency.
In the world of business, the client / vendor (in our case, agency!) relationship takes many shapes. But at the end of the day they all share a common thread: money and services are being exchanged. Sounds so robotic and cold, yes? That’s because the exchange of money and services is merely the outcome of the relationship. Not the HOW, which is where the human interaction comes into play. How you build a relationship will dictate success and whether or not you can continue to exchange money and services!
I believe fundamental honesty is the keystone of business. – Harvey S. Firestone
All professional relationships are built on a set of core elements. If your client or your agency relationship doesn’t work out, one of these core elements was likely missing or simply needed some work! So, what makes a great professional relationship?
- Communication: I’ve already written on this topic. Communication is vital to relationships. Communication is the key to any great relationship and paves the way for success. Checking in with each other, keeping each other accountable and aware of what is going on. Sounds so simple. And you know why? Because it is! Communication doesn’t have to be difficult. Schedule regular calls. Send proactive emails. Set up automated reports (yes, in the PPC life, performance reports are a form of communication). Maintain clear communication and you will build a strong client / agency relationship.
- Transparency: This is a part of communication, but important enough to live on it’s own. How many times have you heard of PPC agencies withholding account access or performance reports? How many times have you found this to be a ridiculous notion!?!?!?!?!? A client will never stick around if they feel like an iron curtain has been placed between them and their agency. Without transparency there is no trust. Without trust there is no relationship. That is all.
- Clear Expectations: What are the goals, the target KPIs? Who is responsible for each task? What are the due dates? Is a goal or project reasonable and able to be completed? Set clear expectations on both sides of the ball. What is the client responsible for? What is the agency responsible for? When expectations are clear and agreed upon, this will grease the wheels for communication, collaboration and trust.
- Collaboration: When we work together, we can achieve amazing things. Your client has expertise in their business, their vertical. Learn from them. Your agency may have a very specific skill set, but they get to work with a wide variety of clientele and bring a varied knowledge set to the table. Learn from them. The best client and agency relationships are those that become partnerships to achieve a common goal.
- Trust: When you communicate, provide full transparency, understand expectations and are open to collaboration you have built a foundation for trust. Trust is what keeps any relationship healthy now and in the future. Trust is what puts people at ease and allows them to be their true self, thus able to reach their full potential. You want your clients reaching their full potential, yes? You want your agency reaching their full potential, yes? Trust each other and reap the rewards!
As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. – Amy Poehler
These elements may mean something a bit different to each of us. That’s OK! Our differences make us stronger in the end. But this further proves the importance of instilling all of these elements in your professional relationships. They all work together to call out our differences and create a system that is essentially an equalizer. When trust, communication, expectations and collaboration are all working together from both the client and agency side, great things will happen. Trust that it will happen, and it will.
What has been your experience with building and maintaining strong professional relationships? Leave a comment!