Lee Odden

Elements of Successful Client Relationships

On the heels of yesterday’s poll about why agencies would discontinue working with clients, I think it’s important to consider what makes a successful client engagement. As was pointed out in the comments, not every client relationship is the same and a lot depends on the work that is done up front.

On the agency side, there must be an effective process in place for accurately assessing the client situation and making proper recommendations. Too often agencies lead with the services they WANT to offer rather than what the client actually NEEDS. Having a good handle on staffing, client load, expertise and account management are also critical.

On the client side, nothing helps an agency do their job more than having clear goals and a good understanding of the business unit, product or service to be promoted. It’s also critical that clients have sufficient resources to support and implement the recommendations they’re paying for.

However, these are not the only factors responsible for successful client engagements due the uniqueness that comes with each relationship. Since there is such a tremendous wealth of experience and insight within our dear readers, I’d love to get your feedback on this.

In-house markters: If you could give one piece of advice to a client side marketer that is looking for advice on how to ensure a successful agency relationship, what would it be?

Agencies: What elements of a client/agency relationship have you found to be critical for success?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. From the Agency side:

    It is crucial to have an adequate well-informed assesment of the client’s needs well in advance of any offering. A custom offering must be developed in nearly every scenario. That’s the reality. Please tell me if anyone has found another way. 😉 I’m all ears.

    A good understanding of client’s product / target market, sales process and internal implementation capablilities are essential. Their staffing set up and internal communications structure must be throroughly reviewed and I recommend interviewing their staff with extensive intake – written, verbal and documented (without exhausting them) before you come to the table with an offered Plan of Action.

    I hope this helps.

  2. That was very insightful. As an Account Executive I can

  3. I am in agreement as in my business, an online medical supply company, there is a lot of business and client interaction. I find that most customers are happy if you are willing to listen and tell them they are correct rather than try to point out what your business accomplished for them etc.

    This happens to work with most people; say their correct and yuo usually receive a positive reaction.

  4. Lee, I appauld your persistence and thoroughness in this subject matter. I’ve also always appreciated your constant effort to learn and grow without having the problem of a phoney inflated ego which gets in the way of anybody’s continued learning.

    You say: “On the agency side, there must be an effective process in place for accurately assessing the client situation and making proper recommendations.” This is very true, but like in a marriage, there needs to be an “ongoing process in place” (good communication), since people and relationships change over time.

    My many years in sales, marketing and online/offline advertising have taught me that the best way to “sell” (educate) or maintain a healthy relationship is to “ask questions” or “fact find”, and then “peel the onion”. This can expose the “real needs” in a “needs analysis”. In fact, the “diagnostic approach” is an accepted keyword term for sales professionals.

    I like your willingness to share educational information, and I’m hoping you or one of your readers will come up with a search marketing version of the “Feedback” forms I mentioned previously. Forms like these could be customized for “upfront” fact finding purposes, as well as ongoing purposes. Here is that suggestion again with a link to what a traditional ad agency association has come up with. If you look at page 25 you will see a cartoon that has some piercing humor to it.

    “One suggestion to help buyer and seller is this. This

  5. Avatar Mike Myatt says

    Hi Lee:

    I hope all is well. At the end of the day business relationships (agency or otherwise) are about value received compared to fees expended. If the cost benefit relationship is acceptable to both parties the relationship will endure…if not the relationship will have a limited lifecycle. Sustainable business relationships create value for both parties and to the extent they become out of balance problems will follow.

    I recently authored a post which might be of interest to you entitled: “Is The Customer Always Right?” The post can be read here: http://www.n2growth.com/blog/?p=104

    All my best to you and Sue. Thanks Lee…