The Good Client

Posted by

One of the hardest things to do is to choose a Digital Marketing agency. Here’s why:

In the traditional advertising world, the scales are semi-balanced. You have both client and agency who were both schooled with similar material (education) and enough years of background (and experience) that both are educated, informed and fairly clear on what can be delivered (and how). Even though we’ve been at this Digital Marketing thing for over a decade, it’s still fairly nascent and as the channels and platforms develop, it’s not easy to stay ahead “let alone have extensive experience in what is now considered, "traditional online marketing" (i.e. display advertising, email marketing, search marketing, affiliates, etc…).

Here are 7 tips on how to best choose a Digital Marketing agency (not in terms of the agency and their level of competence, but in terms of what the client needs to know):

  1. Size and work – know the Digital Marketing agency in terms of size (how many people they are and how many offices they have) and type of work (if you’re calling them it should be because of something you heard or work you have seen them do) prior to connecting. Usually the company website or a quick call in to one of their junior account people will give you an indication if it’s a right fit.
  2. Define what you’re looking for “the client does not have to be an expert to be clear on what they’re looking for. We have all seen agencies not score the business simply because the client was not clear in scoping what their expectations are for the proposal. If, as the client, you feel like you may even be too remedial to be clear on the definition/scope of work, allocate some dollars to working with a consultant (or digital marketing agency) on education and proposal definition. It will be money well spent.
  3. Budget – have a budget range in mind. It’s not something the client is going to be held to, but more often than not, a budget range is a great indication of whether the client and the agency have a good fit. As an example, some clients might feel that a 50k budget is healthy, while some agencies might not be able to even get started for less than 150k. A budget range is a great "feeler" to see if it’s a good fit.
  4. Use your human voice “it’s not always possible to do business in-person, so at the very least, do it by phone – especially when it comes to the more major moments like bringing the agency in for a presentation, having them present the proposal, accepting a proposal or rejecting the proposal. There is nothing more impersonal than working for weeks on a proposal, adjusting it based on conference calls, re-presenting it, responding to additional concerns and then, ultimately, being told in a two-sentence email that it’s not going to work out. We frown on "Dear John" letters in our personal lives, we should frown on them in our business lives as well.
  5. Be clear – on your final decisions. Whether the client accepts or rejects the proposal, have some clear reasons for the agency. Let the agency know what you expect from them should you decide to move forward, or let them know where they fell short. There’s no way for the agency to improve (on both client services and on their pitches) unless the client lets them know the reasons “no matter the outcome and no matter how painful it might be for the agency to hear. Having a bullet-point and detailed list/document is also a great idea.
  6. Don’t lie “if you reject an agency, don’t say that it is due to "lack of experience" if what really happened is that you never had the budget to engage them, but still wanted to see what dollar amount they would come back with. It’s a waste of both the client’s and agencies time. It also does not benefit anyone. A truly professional organization (no matter the size) should offer the professional courtesy of being honest (even if that means taking some lumps and admitting you were wrong).
  7. Be honest from the outset “promises of additional budget, access to other brands, word of mouth referrals and more, are all fine and dandy, but none of that is going to happen unless the agency delivers superior work. Don’t string the agency along or make those promises upfront. Everyone is busy and in the services industry time is (literally) money. Being clear and honest from the outset (on all of the points mentioned above) will create the lifeblood for a long and prosperous relationship.

Any additional tips you would like to add?


  1. A great article that really are upporting us as a web agency to have better communication with clients in order to make them understand what is needed and how to approach a media company in order to meet needs for best possible results in the end

  2. Hey Mitch,
    This reminds me of writing out your perfect client exercise that I used to do in some workshops. And I really hope that all clients read your post before getting in touch with any agency and have a clearer sense of what they are looking for. This will benefit both the client and the agency.
    The only additional tip for clients that I would add is “Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand�. Many digital marketers forget that their clients may not understand even the basics and speak in a language that confuses the client. As a client you not only want a successful digital campaign but an understanding of digital marketing that can make the process much simpler and more beneficial in the future as you will have a better idea of what you want. Let this be a tip for you marketers as well!
    Great post Mitch,
    Alex “Simple� Ikonn

  3. So funny, as I was drafting a similar post in my head, but you beat me to the punch–again. I think there’s a satellite delay between your brain and mine…it’s about 1-2 weeks though 😉
    I think #7 is the most important here and just showing respect for the time of the agency. And perhaps the build on that is “a relationship is a two-way street.”
    No matter what, I am going to work my butt off to give you superior quality, that’s client service, but if you show me the respect that you know my time is money, you’re going to put the relationship on after burners, which is what you really want.

  4. Mitch, very good post. : )
    Alex, totally agree with you that customers should ask if they don’t understand something.
    Lately I have won couple of customer cases by talking what kind of co-operation they would like.
    I suggested training / very open consultancy so customer could learn and increase own competence rather than using completely outsourced model.

Comments are closed.