Jason Mueller 06/15/2019

Seven Predictors of a Great Agency-Client Partnership

Stripes is celebrating 7 years of business this October. Seven is big. For us, it’s the year we expanded to the West Coast. 

Over the past 7 years of business, we’ve given some serious thought to what makes a client relationship work. We’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly. We also have clients who’ve been with us (almost) every step of the way. One loved us so much, their parent company went ahead and invested in us… More on that another time.

We asked our lead team to sit down and identify the common characteristics of our most beloved and successful partnerships. Turns out, they had commonalities right out of the gate. As we’ve grown up as an agency, we’ve refined what we look for during the sales process. So in honor of 7 years, here are 7 client qualities that are predictors of a strong engagement:

1. Know what you want. 

A shared understanding of goals is the foundation of any solid engagement. We find that concrete goals are measurable, quantitative ones, not just, “We want people to know about us.” 

Even if your brand isn’t at a place where you know what values to associate with your goals, defining success for your brand makes all the difference. Does more people “knowing about” your brand mean an increase in leads to you? Or perhaps it’s an increase in traffic. If you know (and are confident) in what growth looks like for your brand, then we’re ready to collaborate with you and make it happen. 

2. Know who you are (at least right now).

Know what you’re about: Our most successful engagements come about when the client knows — at the outset of the engagement — their audience, their value proposition, and their overall position in the market. As those things evolve, we’ll be right there with you.

This is a two-way street. We understand our strengths and try to focus our time and resources on those things. We say no to projects that aren’t our specialty — not because we’re incapable of executing them, but because we stay in our lane and focus on doing what we do best. 

This is why engagements that rely on our team defining your brand identity aren’t typically our success stories. If our task is to extend an already working message and brand position on social, that’s when we do our best work.

3. Trust us.

We know we have to earn it, but trusting us goes a long way in laying the groundwork for a successful engagement. Turns out, a lot of what goes into a solid engagement is trust. That means allowing us to do our jobs, being open to recommendations, and not micromanaging the engagement. Trust allows space for our expertise to shine.

The strength of our communication with you builds this trust and can determine the strength of the relationship. We seek honest, consistent, and open communication; and real collaboration occurs when that’s reciprocated. We want to know where you’re at with your goals and how you feel about things. And the best way for this to happen is for you to tell us. We love it when our partners are straightforward.

4. Take calculated risks.

One of social’s greatest strengths is directly tied to its measurability, efficiency, and adaptability. As a campaign matures, we’re going to learn things that might require us to pivot from the original outline of the engagement. We see results quickly, we optimize quickly, and, as needed, we change directions quickly. Be ready to react and make the best of the opportunities that emerge as we learn more. Our successful partners get a thrill from the efficiency of the platforms and have a desire to leverage the adaptability of paid social to drive results.

5. Have strong content. 

A strong engagement is dependent on strong content and resources for us to leverage on social. The more time we can spend adapting preexisting content rather than creating it, the better. We like to focus on what we do best, and that’s paid social.

6. Have a test budget. 

Increasingly, we’re seeing the benefit of building “dry powder” into contracts. The benefit of having reserved money to invest in test campaigns by experimenting with goals or new content, or in campaigns that are performing exceptionally well is our optimal scenario because that means we can be committed to learning without compromising the goals you’ve set for your other campaigns.

7. Play nicely with others. 

We thought about titling this point “Don’t be a dick.” But it looked a bit aggressive and that’s not what we’re about. Really, though, we aspire to hire the brightest and kindest marketers we know, and if you do too, well, you should hire us. Or come work with us.

We use this checklist for our own internal purposes as we search for new partnerships. It serves as a guideline of mutual responsibilities and aspirations between our clients and us. 

Do you and your team also value these 7 things? Let’s talk. We love new clients (and friends)!

Jason Mueller

With a background that spans advertising, fundraising, and higher education, Jason Mueller has been in the agency world for over 12 years. He’s filled client-facing roles in strategy, development, and consulting while working on such accounts as Bertolli, Texas Rangers, Dallas Mavericks, Salesforce, Columbia Business School and Texas Health Resources. He has proved instrumental in leading Stripes into new markets, and he continues to drive new business development. Jason has completed two masters programs, has a twin, and lived on a self-sustained farm as a kid. And his kindergarten teacher forced him to become right-handed. What could have been if he’d stayed a lefty? The world will never know.