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Winning Strategies

The Secrets to Building a Successful Agency-Client Partnership

At Lean Labs, our focus isn't the marketing. It isn't on the campaign. And it's not on collecting the monthly retainer. When you come on board as a Lean Labs client, you're entrusting your brand and your business to us and we take that very seriously. Our focus is on developing a successful client-agency partnership that builds remarkable success stories. It may not happen immediately, but it will happen. Here's how.

At Lean Labs, we have a pretty firm protocol for our client-agency partnerships that has led to a record of success. So how do we set up our new clients and overcome the bumps and bruises that are typical of a new relationship? We work together and commit to acknowledged expectations, solid communication plans, and firm goals.

Building a Successful Client-Agency Relationship

Take a look at each step in the process below and see how incorporating them may improve your client-agency relationships.

1. Set Expectations

Setting expectations between the client and the agency before starting any work is critical. At Lean Labs, this includes confirming our processes and planning protocol and also re-confirming what it is we have been hired to do. Most often that begins and ends with a commitment to the Inbound Strategy.

The Inbound Strategy is a process in itself and we cover that with new clients on Day 1. This is an ideal time to discuss how our new client operates and commit to guidelines we will follow throughout the relationship. In other words, we haven't been hired to advance someone's career or increase profits by an undefined parameter. In setting the expectations, we outline what we need our clients to do in order to develop a successful relationship that will allow us to do the job we have been hired for.

2. Get Paid

Lean Labs is a small, dynamic inbound marketing agency and we consider ourselves partners in your brand. But that doesn't mean we don't care about getting paid. In order to move forward with our job, which is to further your business growth, we need to avoid delays and distractions due to unpaid or confusing invoices. We promise you will understand each and every invoice and value the work we have done, and in exchange, we ask our retainers be paid on time. Any questions? We can address them, of course, but allowing us to concentrate on the business at hand (and not retainer collection) gives us the momentum we need to make real measurable progress.

3. Stakeholders on Board

Up above we mentioned clients getting promoted and that is great! Wonderful. Ideal. Your success is ours. But is everyone on board? Lean Labs is committed to raising the bar of success month and after month, but in order to do that, we need a similar commitment from ALL the stakeholders.

So before we jump in and get started, let's make sure everyone from sales to marketing to the leadership team are on board the Inbound Marketing Train. Let's have discussions about how the website will need to change to support the Inbound Philosophy—and is IT on board with making those changes? Will Marketing support the outside assistance of an experienced agency? And finally is the sales team prepared, trained, and excited for the changes that occur when you move from a hard sell to Inbound? For a successful relationship, we want everyone on the client side committed to the changes that are happening.

4. Communication Protocol

At Lean Labs, we hate CC email. But we LOVE great communication. Long email strings can signal the downward spiral of a great idea and are more often than not the culprit when it comes to missed information. To avoid this, we have a clearly defined protocol that outlines communication guidelines. By incorporating tools like Slack, Help Desk notification, and client dashboards, we can communicate in a fluid fashion that minimizes missed information and increases the speed and efficiency of our client work. We want to hear from you! And you should want to hear from us. So pick up the phone and give us a call or message us on Slack. By following a set protocol for communication, a net positive relationship is the likely outcome.

5. Single Stakeholder

This is a big one. We all need to agree on who is driving the bus. On the agency side, having a single stakeholder can make a world of difference. When there are too many oars in the boat and everyone is trying to direct the ship, chaos can erupt. And more importantly, multiple stakeholders can lead to shared accountability. We will talk about goals below, and to hit goals, accountability is required on both the agency and the client side. With Lean Labs, our small dedicated business model lends itself automatically to single stakeholder responsibility. Clients know exactly who to call, when, and why. By providing the same structure on the client side, the odds of our partnership being successful are even higher.

6. Goals

So, we just mentioned success. What is success to your business? Initially, goals and definitions of success seem pretty black and white. But corporate culture and other aspects of your business model play a part in defining the goals as well. For example, "doubling" any KPI is a common goal we hear. But is that the real goal? What will actually make a client feel success? Depending on the culture, environment, and challenges, getting half way to double could be success. Or does it have to be the "double"? For a company that has struggled with sales, seeing even a 10% increase in month 1 can be a success.

Setting measurable goals is one of the tenets of Inbound that we at Lean Labs adhere to. But nothing can derail a relationship faster than an undefined "feeling of success". So let's work that out before we get started, shall we?

7 . Campaigns That Drive Milestone #1

AKA, don't get distracted by the small stuff. The number one goal of a client-agency partnership is to drive the company forward. We've already discussed setting expectations and goals, now let's put that to action and stay focused. Once the strategy has been outlined and reviewed, the biggest priority is a campaign development that will drive milestone number one. With one clear stakeholder involved, the agency and client need to knock that milestone out of the park. If Milestone #1 is 10,000 views a month, that is the only thing we are going to focus on until that is hit. So, improving email open rates suddenly pops up, forgive us if we want to hold off on refocusing resources from page views to email A/B testing. As we say, "First things first, second things second."

8. We're the Experts—But You Know Your Brand.

When you've gone through the trouble of researching and hiring an agency, you are probably pretty comfortable with what you have hired them to do. If you are a dental practice, we have confidence you can keep our teeth pearly white and healthy. And you need to have confidence we can create an Inbound strategy that will have clients beating down your door. Allow us to do what we do best—advise and improve your marketing and drive successful businesses. Let us pick your brains, devour your data, and inhale your brand, and then we will create a roadmap to success. Let your agency navigate the marketing so you can concentrate on closing deals, increasing contracts, and delighting your customers.

A great client-agency relationship is one in which both parties succeed and delight in the success of the brand. By following protocol for goal setting, communication, and overall processes, clients and agencies can avoid starting off on the wrong foot, delays, and setbacks. Take it from us, follow our 8 guidelines for success and you will be well on your way to knocking one out of the park with your new agency.

Free Ebook: Climbing the Inbound Marketing Mountain

Written by Stephen Coursen / August 16, 2016

Born at an early age, now older than he has ever been. Works hard to organize folks and projects as the Head of Operations for Lean Labs. Loving husband for 16 years and proud father of 4. Masquerades as Mr. Fix-it in his off hours because he enjoys turning wrenches and repairing broken stuff.

Articles by Stephen Coursen