How to get the
most from a
client-agency
relationship

Watch our webinar from 30/06/2021 featuring a panel of senior marketers from MarshallsJohn Lewis Finance and Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward.

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Watch our webinar on how to get the most from a client-agency relationship.

Hosted by Fresh Egg Account Director, Cath Foster, taking part in the discussion were:

  • Lauren Carlberg - Partner and Senior Marketing Manager Digital & CRM, John Lewis Finance
  • Sarah Leach - Head of Marketing and Ecommerce, Marshalls
  • Stacey Kirby - Head of Marketing and Communications, Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward
  • Melissa Waters - Head of Client Services, Fresh Egg

1. How has the pandemic changed your agency/client relationship?

Lauren Carlberg

We have always wanted to establish a relationship where agencies feel like an extension of the team, and this was harder at first, having not ever met everyone. However, a year on, it’s shown us it’s very much still possible. We even changed a few of our agencies during lockdown and managed to make the chemistry and “getting to know you” session work! As we move into more of a blended working approach, I am looking forward to being more selective about the kinds of meetings we will choose to do face-to-face, which will save so much time logistically, mainly when there are many people involved.

Sarah Leach

Moving away from conference calls and onto video has allowed for more informal conversations. As people are working from home, we’ve got to know our agency teams better on a more personal level. We have a lot more frequent ‘huddles’ now as opposed to lengthy face to face meetings. It’s cut down on travel too which has freed up time and saved us money.

Stacey Kirby

While face time is important, the last year has taught us we don’t need it for every meeting. Not travelling to meetings freed up time for crucial work and innovation, especially in the early days of the pandemic when our industry shut down. There was a fair bit of panicking and firefighting.

Melissa Waters

It has taught us we don’t need so many of the meetings to be face to face. It saves valuable time (and money), not travelling so much. Of course, there are instances when face to face is gold, for example, QBRs, but as an agency, we will look to learn from and hold on to the virtual meeting space. We miss seeing our clients socially, as this is a massive part of getting to know them and understanding them as people.

2. What do you think the long term affects are of remote working on relationships/meetings?

Lauren Carlberg

We will adopt more of a blended approach, with remote working very much a part of how we work together and be considerate of how and when we choose to use face to face meetings. We’ve established a good groove in lockdown, and the cadence that we’ve got going with remote sessions works for us, so I don’t see a need for us to return to the days of lengthy travelling and reliance on emails.

Sarah Leach 

I think it will continue as is for us with occasional face-to-face meet-ups with our core agencies.

Stacey Kirby

We’ll see how things pan out once things feel a bit more normal, but more regular virtual meetings with a quarterly face-to-face and a drink at the pub feel like the right balance. 

Melissa Waters

I hope we can strive to get the right balance – in person when needed (we love seeing our clients in person) and virtually when needed.

3. What are the top things that are essential for a good working relationship?

Lauren Carlberg

Honesty and transparency - I firmly believe that the best output comes when clients and agencies are both honest in their objectives and internal pressures, sharing the right level of business information to allow proactivity and ensure everyone feels in the loop.

Sarah Leach

Honesty is absolutely at the top of my list - even if it’s not what I might want to hear – a good agency is an extension of my team and I expect my thinking to be challenged.

Stacey Kirby 

Client/agency relationships are like all relationships – there are ups and downs, both parties need to put in the effort, and it’s vital to have a solid foundation to get you through the tough, tense times.

Melissa Waters

Making sure we deliver impact and are quantify our results, showing impact and what success clients have received in relation to their investment with Fresh Egg. I think clients and agencies can sometimes find this challenging because there are many ways to show impact. In addition, the sources for proving impact are often not always available, for example, how performance has impacted revenue or sales. But there are ways of proving results, so it’s crucial to show the value and success the partnership and investment brings.

4. Do you have an example of good client/agency partnership and why?

Lauren Carlberg

I know that we’ve achieved a good agency/client relationship when the agency says “no”, be it pushing back on briefs that could be improved to produce the best possible work or even saying no to additional (paid) work.

Sarah Leach

Get to know me, my team and my customers - A good agency will invest the time to get to you know personally and get under the skin of your business.

Stacey Kirby

I have been fortunate to work with exceptional agencies throughout my career, especially at KFH. My current marketing director impressed on me early on in my career is the importance of treating your key agencies like an extension of your team.

Melissa Waters

We try to walk in our client's shoes as often as we can, and where possible, be an extension of their team. We do this by getting under the brand's skin, gaining a deep understanding of the customers/audience, sharing thought leadership, working collaboratively, and challenging when needed. We are honest and transparent. We look to understand a client's infrastructure, understand the core business objectives, marry down to the project/service objectives, be accountable, and have a partnership mentality.

5. What annoys you with a client/agency?

Lauren Carlberg

Lack of transparency - when it’s clear there are other pressures and considerations at play that impact deadlines or quality of work but no communication. I prefer an opportunity to have an honest conversation about realistic timescales and not have to do the job twice. 

Sarah Leach

Lack of progress on actions – we need our agencies to deliver, and as our team is so small, we don’t have time to chase. This is where collaboration tools come into their own to keep track of progress.

Stacey Kirby

The two words that come to mind are ego and arrogance. An agency/client relationship should never be subservient, and a good agency should challenge its clients. The only bad experience I’ve had with agencies is when people do not leave their egos at the door. Then there is an attitude of, I’ve been doing this much longer than you, and I know best, even though I’ve barely bothered to understand your business.

Melissa Waters

I have seen how disrespectful clients can be tricky in previous roles with a real ‘them and us’ attitude. Before joining Fresh Egg, I have witnessed occasions where clients are highly suspicious of agencies. This behaviour manifests itself with overly demanding behaviour, micromanaging, looking at every single expenditure and hour (vs outcome), and treating us like suppliers who need instruction and constantly negotiate. This attitude is unhealthy and prevents both parties from getting the best from the relationship.

6. How do you see the agency/client model changing in the future, e.g. partnerships, shared initiatives?

Lauren Carlberg

More blurring of the lines between agency and client, moving further towards an integrated approach that takes the “agency as an extension of the team” to the next level.

Sarah Leach

I can’t comment on the industry as a whole, but more strategic partnerships where team outsourcing will become more popular.

Stacey Kirby

We rely on our agencies, such as Fresh Egg, for crucial insight into who our customers are and how we can better serve them, making them a vital part of growth strategies.

Melissa Waters

Our ultimate aim is to be an extension of the client team, so understanding the brand, industry, and sector is becoming more important than ever.