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15 Agency Leaders Share What They Wish Every New Client Understood

Clients are the lifeblood of any agency. In many cases, agencies are able to set the right expectations and establish smooth, solid working relationships with clients early on. However, some new clients may come in with unrealistic expectations or unreasonable requests, especially if they’ve never worked with an agency before.

Our founder and managing partner, Terry Tateossian, gives her take on the subject as well. You could read her opinion under number 7. We Want To Vet Your Leadership Team To Ensure A Good Fit

Setting boundaries with clients is just as important as landing them. To help, 15 Forbes Agency Council members each share one thing they wish all their clients understood from the very beginning of their working relationship and how to make those parameters clear from the start.

1. We Have To Set A Reasonable Number Of Hours

We work on a retainer basis, but we also set expectations on how many hours per month is reasonable at a specific retainer level. With our standard monthly SEO retainer, for example, we set the expectation that it equates to approximately 10 hours a month, give or take 30% depending on the needs of the client that month. This helps to set expectations on time spent throughout the month. – Brent Payne, Loud Interactive, LLC

2. We Need Enough Lead Time To Get Results

As an affiliate agency, we typically say a four-month runway is required when launching a new program before seeing the type of growth the client is looking for. Throughout the sales and launch process, we reiterate that time is needed to successfully grow the channel. Setting expectations immediately and tracking performance against those expectations is vital for a long-term relationship. – Abby Campbell, Perform[cb] Agency

3. We’ll Help You Understand What To Expect And Define Success

If a prospective client has unrealistic expectations, they’re unlikely to become a client. It’s on us, the agency, to help shape expectations prior to entering engagements. It’s our job to help them understand what they should expect, create forecasts and define success. – Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync

4. We Need To Understand Your Challenges To Best Meet Your Needs

Good agencies want to know as much as they can about their client’s business (good and bad) because the more informed we are, the better we perform for you. A deep understanding of your challenges helps us create relevant strategies and initiatives that will work for your business. Starting a new relationship with a discovery process helps clients see their agency as a partner instead of a vendor. – Renee Yeager, Yeager Marketing

5. The Client-Agency Relationship Is A True Partnership

I wish clients understood the importance of the client-agency relationship is about true partnership. This means the free sharing of all information (good and bad) on business goals, projects, budgets, etc. Too many clients try to keep agencies at arm’s length, and this leads to substandard results. – Tom Hileman, Hileman Group

6. We’ll Document Everything In Writing To Address Assumptions

The more you work with clients who have no previous agency experience, the better you get at managing their expectations, since you can predict with greater and greater accuracy what incorrect assumptions they may arrive with at the outset of the relationship. It’s important to leverage these insights to proactively address any assumptions you anticipate they may have and put everything in writing. – April White, Trust Relations

7. We Want To Vet Your Leadership Team To Ensure A Good Fit

It’s tough popping clients’ bubbles of expectations, but it is a necessary evil. Our approach is to deliver an exceptional onboarding experience when new clients engage with us, but nothing beats vetting the entire leadership team on the client side to make sure they are even a good fit for your agency. Remember, the sales process goes two ways. You need to ensure they are a good fit for you. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media

8. We’ll Be Honest About The Effort Your Expectations Will Require

I would start by asking if the expectations are truly unrealistic. Many times, as agencies, we get stuck in thinking things take so long or have to be done a certain way. An outside ask isn’t always bad or wrong. Often it can lead to a new way of doing work. That said, if it’s genuinely unrealistic, I find talking to them about the level of effort and the project plan is quite useful. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

9. You Hired Us For Our Expertise

When clients hire my agency, they sometimes feel they are the marketing experts, which causes unrealistic expectations. I try to set the tone from the start that they are hiring my team because this is what we do best, day in and day out, and if they can’t allow us to work within our due process for success, then we are not the right fit for their brand. – Olivia Ormos, OO & CO

10. Results Won’t Happen Overnight

It is the job of the agency to set clear expectations for the client regarding the deliverables of the work that will be done and the expected results. When it comes to helping clients market and brand, all clients should understand the importance of taking time to achieve the best results. It is not an overnight thing. It is the responsibility of the agency to explain that marketing and branding is a long-term play. – Tony Pec, Y Not You Media

11. It’s Important To Set Realistic Goals On Both Sides

In one of our initial visits, we’ll develop a scope of work that details what the first 30, 60 and 90 days of an engagement look like. Setting realistic goals is extremely important on both sides of the relationship. We’ll update the scope as necessary; however, there’s never a surprise. – Robin Derryberry, Derryberry PR

12. We Can’t Achieve Success In A Vacuum

The first step in a successful relationship is defining what success looks like and how you will achieve success together. An agency brings a certain set of skills and expertise into the relationship, but it will not achieve success in a vacuum. Working together to create a marketing strategy and building a partnership to execute the strategy is the only path to a successful relationship. – David McGarry, Automotive Internet Media

13. We’re On Your Side And Want The Best Outcome For You

We are on the client’s side and always want the best outcome for them. Often, ensuring that goals for the campaign are established up front along with key metrics, leaves very little room for unrealistic expectations. Remaining in constant contact with the client with updates also is imperative to avoid disappointment. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

14. We Need To Trust Each Other To Do What We Do Best

When clients do what they do best (e.g., provide clear business goals, access to business intelligence and clear direction), it empowers their agency partners to do what we do best (e.g., use years of experience executing marketing initiatives that meet or exceed client goals). When agencies and clients employ trust and transparency with information and expectations, the partnership can thrive. – Russ Williams, Archer Malmo

15. We’re Focused On Performance And Results

I think it’s perfectly normal for a company to have high expectations for their agency. Businesses need to win in order to survive. If their agency is moving slow or giving excuses on why something will take months to accomplish, the business needs to find another agency that can deliver. Agencies that focus on performance and results will be the agencies that accelerate over the next decade. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint