MODELS OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN CLIENTS AND AGENCIES
Recently, our marketing department organized a #blueberryMeetUp, which focused on the process of setting up KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are used to measure the success of marketing campaigns. We also talked about pitfalls and practical examples. The topic of communication between agency and client was discussed in the talk by our team leader, Karel Pařízek, which subsequently raised a number of questions from our attendees. For this reason, I decided to share my experience and write a couple of thoughts to sum it all up.
During my time at Blueberry — and in my previous jobs both in an agency environment and outside of it — I’ve had the opportunity to experience different forms of communication between client and agency. The various options have their own pros and cons, and none can be universally applied to all situations. Therefore, it is necessary to sensibly select a form of communication, but react flexibly to changes or malfunctions.
In the following paragraphs, I’ll describe the three main options for setting up communication between a representative of the agency on one side, and a client on the other.
Account manager — client
Perhaps the most common form of communication with a client that I encountered was through one person (account manager, key account manager, etc.) who is completely responsible for overall communication. It is also the options chosen the most among digital agencies. The person of the account manager is often taken into account when client is choosing the agency to work with. For both parties, this option has an indisputable advantage due to the fact that everyone knows who they can turn to and who is the clear informational link to both the client and individual team members. Experienced account managers can communicate with the client and primarily be a partner who can take a great deal of insight into the client’s business. They ensure that everything gets to the right places and that both the client and team members are informed and know what to do.
Strategist/specialist — client
Another possibility is to ensure communication with the client through a strategist or one of the in-team specialists, whether it be PPC, social or SEO. The main factor for choosing this way of communication is the size of the client. For example, with smaller clients, for whom we only take care of one of many online marketing disciplines, it makes more sense for the client to communicate directly with, for example, a PPC specialist who is the main person responsible for the campaigns being implemented. This shortens the reaction time, and a specialist understands the client’s intentions and goals, and is also responsible for all aspects of cooperation. In the case of larger clients, we believe the best way is to give this role to a strategist who is present at all meetings from the beginning of the cooperation, which enables him/her to better understand the client and prepare a strategy built on firm foundations, but also be ready to respond flexibly to changes in the business environment during the cooperation.
Thanks to a direct connection to a client, strategists have a great insight into client’s business. This is more or less a substitution of the account manager role. But like every option, this inherently has pros and cons. For example, not every specialist likes to communicate with clients. If he/she is working on multiple projects, there can be pressure in shifting the deadlines of completing certain tasks first so that he/she always does the work for the client that he/she is responsible for, instead of tasks that are priority.
Complete project team — client
Last but not least, it is also necessary to mention the form of direct communication with the client’s representative with individual members of the team. Ultimately, this method seems like a completely dedicated marketing team, where the client addresses directly each specialist. In this case, both good relationships and a high level of trust combined with a history of mutual relationship are necessary. The main advantage of this option is the speed of solving problems and fulfilling requirements, along with clearer input, thus reducing the potential for misunderstanding. However, it is always necessary to keep one person responsible for the whole project on the side of the agency who has information on everything that is happening. This ensures that all the requests were processed and nothing was forgotten. The responsible person acts primarily as a safeguard of the entire cooperation.
As mentioned at the beginning, none of these forms can be universally applied and each has its own place, along with advantages and disadvantages. At Blueberry, we use all three of these ways. In most cases we choose the option of account manager or strategist. Where it makes sense, whether in terms of the number of disciplines involved, the long-term relationship and the functionality of the whole cooperation, we switch to communication with the client through complete project team.
What are your experiences concerning this issue?