The secret to great B2B client-agency relationships
Our Client Services Director Katy Bloomfield answers a few questions about what makes a successful relationship between a brand and its B2B PR agency.
How did you get into PR?
I’ve worked with B2B clients since my first role as agency intern. This turned into a permanent role and provided me with a lot of variety, including guiding a major paint brand as it made its first forays into social media. I then moved to a role in strategic messaging and branding before returning to the front lines to deliver PR for tech and consumer clients at another agency. I joined the team in 2017 to move into a leadership role and to work across B2B and digital PR.
How has your experience informed your view of client-agency relationships?
What I’ve learned is to view client-agency relationships as a partnership. Clients choose to work with an agency because of its specialist skills. They also value an agency that can act as an extension of their team. At the same time, the client needs to offer work that is interesting and relevant to the agency and provide the right level of access and support for the agency to produce great results. It’s not just about paying the bills – we also rely on our clients to motivate us, which in turn helps with employee retention.
What does the ideal client-agency relationship look like?
Obviously, the ideal relationship depends on the client. For me, the best clients are ambitious, with fair expectations and an understanding of how a PR agency works.
Typically, clients seek four things in an agency partner:
A deep understanding of their business. The ideal agency should understand their client’s bigger goals and objectives, and why their customers have chosen to work with them. Getting coverage is great – but if it doesn’t ladder up to business objectives, there is little return value.
Great chemistry – after all, a client needs to trust and enjoy working with their main contact, as well as the wider team.
Creativity is also vital. Clients are often time-poor and are so close to their brand that they find it hard to see it from a fresh perspective. That’s why we see it as our job to provide strategic insight.
The last one is accountability. It’s essential that an agency gets results, is determined and driven.
How does this differ from reality – and what does Definition do about it?
At Definition, we have processes in place to keep things fresh. We prompt our team to hold regular brainstorms, as well as quarterly strategy reviews designed to encourage the team to imagine what they could achieve for a brand. Regular checkpoints like these help us keep client relationships on track. And in turn, we’ve nurtured long client relationships – 10 years or more in many cases.
And what should the brand do to keep things on track?
The key to keeping a client focused is providing solid, achievable objectives and clear timeframes. For example, a client may want to generate more leads by using PR to raise awareness. However, an awareness campaign is a long-term strategy and will struggle to deliver leads within a week. If they don’t understand this in advance, they can become frustrated. That’s why we always encourage our clients to talk with us about what they want to achieve, as we can suggest how to achieve shorter-term goals while working towards a long-term vision.
Ultimately, a client-agency relationship is a two-way thing. To keep things healthy, we always need to act in the best interests of our clients and they should treat us as a partner.