How to Be Everyone’s Favorite Client

Help your agency help you

Picture this: You’ve been hired by a brand to redesign its website. The creative brief explicitly calls for bright colors and bold designs so you get to work on strong, vibrant wireframes that incorporate vivid, colorful layouts. You even enlist an illustrator and motion graphics artist to help you take the site to the next level.

You go in to present your concepts to the client, confident you’ve created some of your agency’s best work, and you’re met with… silence. It turns out that the client’s marketing SVP decided weeks ago that the brand should stick to a traditional look and feel, but her team forgot to tell you. After weeks of work, it’s back to the drawing board.

Unfortunately, this scenario is probably all too familiar. exists for a reason—clients have a bad habit of self-sabotaging their projects or expecting their agencies to do the impossible. But for agencies to produce on-time, on-budget and mind-shatteringly-great creative, clients need to play their part.

Personally, I’ve been on the client and the agency side. I know first-hand about the communications problems that can arise. So, here are six ways you can be a better client and become a true partner with your agency.

1. Communicate your overarching goal early and often

More likely than not you’ve enlisted an agency to help you accomplish a specific goal. Maybe it’s boosting brand awareness among a specific demographic, generating excitement around a new product or motivating a specific customer behavior. Whatever it is, make sure you clearly state it to your agency partner from the get-go. It should be the north star that guides both you and the agency throughout the process. With each new round of work, start by asking how the creative contributes to the end goal. Being clear about your objectives early on will save you time on revisions down the line.

2. Keep your stakeholders in the loop

For agency teams, there is nothing more frustrating than getting to the final phases of a project just to be told to go back to the drawing board by an out-of-the-loop executive who you didn’t even know was involved with the project. As a client, it’s your job to keep your stakeholders updated and gather feedback from them throughout the process. You then need to be sure to communicate that feedback back to your agency promptly and clearly. Solutions like OpenText Hightail ensure that agency and client teams are on the same page and that feedback can be delivered clearly and effectively.

3. Stick to your side of the schedule

Project timelines go off the rails for a number of reasons and it is everyone’s responsibility to keep to the plan or manage the consequences. If you are late getting feedback to your agency, it is likely going to delay the next draft of the project. It’s as simple as that. Establish a schedule for reviews early on and then make sure you stick to it. You might even consider including an extra day or more when you establish the schedule to account for unforeseen delays. Also, watch out for other time sinks. Unclear feedback, comments buried in rambling email chains or faulty internal processes can further upset your timetable.

4. Don’t get hung up on the small things

As the client, you’ll undoubtedly have strong opinions about things like colors, fonts, imagery, etc. And while it’s great to stay engaged, remember that you hired the agency for their creative expertise. Instead of driving everyone mad with requests for a lighter shade of teal, focus on the overarching direction of the project. Ask questions like: Does the creative embody my brand values? Will our customers respond to it? Can it accomplish my end-goal? I’ll admit that it will be challenging to move away from your detail-oriented nature, but trusting your agency will go a long way in building a strong relationship.

5. Be realistic on what your agency can deliver

What can you expect your agency to produce for the budget you’ve set? Bruno Gralpois of Agency Mania Solutions put it perfectly during a recent Adweek webinar: “Too many clients expect breakthrough thinking or filet mignon, foie gras and champagne on a McDonald’s budget.” There’s nothing wrong with demanding great work from your agency. In fact, that’s what they want to deliver. But they also want to do it on a budget and timeline that are credible.

6. Remember that your agency is on your side

It is entirely natural for there to be friction between you and your agency partner at some point in the process. To keep tensions from getting out of hand and ruining the project, simply remind yourself that the agency is on your side. They aren’t being difficult on purpose—they want the work to be successful as much as you do. To prevent this, keep communication channels open, be honest, be accountable and try to make all comments as constructive and actionable as possible.  That’s the basis of a truly successful partnership.


Liana Tallarico leads marketing for OpenText Hightail, a cloud-based collaboration and file sharing software designed for creative content reviews and approvals. Before joining the Hightail team over four years ago, Liana worked for a number of advertising agencies.