I got good response (many via Facebook) on Monday’s post on “5 Key Agency Mistakes”.

A few people suggested I turn the tables and outline some criteria for being a good Client.

The following is based on reader suggestions (thank you, you know who you are) as well as my experience (again) having been on both sides of the table.

So here goes:

5 Ways to Be a Better Client:

1.You hired the Agency for their expertise- now listen
Clients spend a lot of time seeking out just the right partner to help them attack a particular problem or maximize and opportunity. And then many end up questioning and pushing back on every suggestion. Some challenging is definitely healthy, but pushing back on everything signals either a bad fit, a lack of trust, or the inability to cede control. Let the experts do the job you chose them for.

2.Ask for ideas outside of your Agency’s core competency
At the same time, it’s great to bring your agency into decisions that are outside of their immediate zone of expertise. It shows that you really value them as a strategic/creative partner and it may also lead to a fresh point of view. I’ve gotten fabulous naming suggestions from a graphic designer, and terrific partnership ideas from my research company.

3 All great work begins with a great brief. Or at least a well thought out one. Take the time to write down and think through, what you really want. What does success look like and how will the idea/output need to be socialized before it is implemented? This can be a collaborative process with the Agency, but take the time up front to do it and really listen to the Agency’s suggestions and concerns. They’ve seen lots of briefs (both good and bad) and can recognize pitfalls early on (see point 1).

In case you haven’t seen it hilarious video about the process of creating a “better stop sign”. Notice how the brief keeps evolving.

4. Be demanding, but not completely unreasonable. It’s fine to push and we are all under a lot of pressure for deadlines and fire drills from management. But too many “I need this by tomorrow at 8 am” (when you are calling at 6pm) will just burn out the Agency and over time the work will suffer. It’s a bit like the boy crying wolf. Step back and think is it really an emergency, or just poor planning. If its the latter, think what changes you can make to minimize this.

5. Say thank you, often and loudly. Nothing motivates like genuine praise. It will keep your partners going the extra mile, forgiving some minor transgressions on points 1-4 and keep the best people wanting to work on your account. Consider going beyond the one on one thank you to a more public acknowledgement. Allow them to present your work at conferences, thank them publicly when presenting the ideas internally, even share some credit in the press. Acknowledgement for work well done, helps keep Agencies strong by attracting high caliber talent and clients. This will benefit you in the long run.

Plus it’s just good manners to acknowledge other people’s hard work and positive contributions and …god knows we could all use more of that.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
How do Clients shine or stumble?

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


  1. Great summary!

    You highlight collaboration and this can't be stressed enough – opening the doors and letting your agencies explore and understand your organization and people from day one really cements trust.

    We all know agencies have to earn trust but you rightly point out that the client stands to gain by being as open as possible!

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