How to Be a Great Client

Five tips from our President and CEO

By: Lauren Parker, President and CEO 

For close to 15 years, I’ve worked agency-side serving large, international brands to up-and-coming start-ups. I’ve had the pleasure of working with clients who were wicked smart and fun to work with, as well as some not-so-pleasant clients who brought me to tears. 

Recently, one of our **most favorite clients** asked me a direct question: “How can I be a better client for you?” I nearly fell out of my chair. After giving it some thought, I boiled it down to a few key points that could really apply to any professional relationship. Here they are: 

Make time and space for onboarding and discovery. At Slide Nine, we always build in time for onboarding and discovery so we can ensure the team has a full understanding of the company’s complexities and the broader market context in which it operates. This usually involves conversations with key executives/spokespeople, competitor analysis, market research, etc. I cannot tell you how many prospective clients have asked us to skip this work “and just start pitching” (🚩🚩🚩). If you are looking to bring on a new agency, investing that time and brainpower at the beginning will help your agency team know and understand your company’s business objectives and devise a communications strategy that will truly move the needle. 

Be transparent about budget. Every corporate communications and marketing team has a set annual budget. It’s understandable that a client may not want to share the exact amount with their agency because they think the agency will attempt to line their pockets. Here’s the truth: a good agency partner will manage your budget as if it were their own. Without any sense of what budget constraints may exist, you could put your agency in a position of over or under-estimating what’s financially possible and delivering a proposed communications plan that misses the mark. Financial transparency will allow you and your agency to align on a strategic creative approach more efficiently. 

Help us help you. This is a catchall for a number of behaviors that make it more difficult to be of service to our clients. Provide our team with all the necessary information needed to do our jobs (and keep us informed when things shift). Join our scheduled meetings so we can have open dialogue and share timely updates to move things forward. Provide reasonably quick feedback and approvals on content our team develops (we don’t like to chase, but we will). It’s our job to make you look like a rock star within your organization. Help us do that effectively and efficiently! 

Give specific, direct, and constructive feedback. I’m a big fan of the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott. She talks about the importance of giving feedback that’s kind and clear, specific and sincere. There have been many times when I wanted to give a copy of this book to a client after a particularly brutal “feedback” session where phrases like, “I don’t like it,” “I’m just not feeling it,” and “This isn’t what I’m looking for” were thrown around. At the end of the day, we want to deliver exceptional work that you are excited about. Just remember, we can’t read your mind. 

Don’t be a jerk. When I became CEO, one of the first things I did was fire our second largest account. Why? Because they didn’t treat our team with kindness or respect. We understand there is often great pressure put on you by your board and/or leadership team, but it’s no excuse to use your agency as your scapegoat and treat our team poorly. Will we get everything right? Not every time. Will mistakes happen? Undoubtedly, and we will always commit to make it right. Will we work hard to deliver on our promises? Absolutely. We’re just good people trying to do great work. 

Agency friends, tell me what I missed!