What clients really want: The Top 9 List

In my more than  20 years in marketing and advertising on both sides of the equation – as the in-house marketer and with an agency – I’ve learned a lot about what clients value most in their marketing partners. These key characteristics seem to apply equally whether the client is internal or external to your company.

Here is my top nine list of what clients really want from their marketing partners:

  1. Ownership mentality – Make decisions as if you own the business. An ownership mentality reflects a true caring for the best outcomes for the brand, and as a marketer, you’re serving as a brand ambassador.
  2. Strategy – Begin with the development of a sound marketing strategy that supports your client’s business goals, and implement tactics that align with that strategy. Too often clients – and even marketers­ – are tempted to start with tactics. It depends if that tactic is on strategy. Is it the right channel to reach the target market?
  3. Effective communication – Be clear, be highly communicative, be proactive, be responsive, and be sure to provide supporting rationale. Don’t assume your client knows why you’re recommending a particular image, for instance. And remember to be an effective communicator, you also need to be an active listener. Finally, discuss up front what modes of communication your client prefers: emails, face-to-face, documentation, phone calls.
  4. Creativity – Bring new ideas with sound justification for your client’s consideration. Ponder new solutions to problems. I like bringing together a team that typically doesn’t work on a client’s account, sharing the strategy, and holding a brainstorming session. Great ideas can come from anywhere. In the Forbes article, “What Is Creativity’s Value–In Marketing, In Business?” the author says creative leaders “are open-minded and inventive in expanding their management and communication styles, particularly to engage with a new generation of employees.”
  5. Business savvy – Making decisions as if you own the business is disingenuous if you don’t have an understanding of the business and its pain points. Doing deep-dive interviews with key stakeholders is a good place to start.
  6. Honesty, Integrity & Truthfulness – As a steward of your client’s budget and proprietary information, upholding the values of honesty, integrity and truthfulness are expected. The client is not always right. Don’t be a “yes man,” as that brings no value to the client. If you disagree, be truthful. Professionally share your dissenting opinion. It’s your responsibility to provide counsel with sound rationale and respect the client’s final decision.
  7. Transparency – Arguably, transparency is an extension of honesty, integrity, and truthfulness, but it also warrants a special mention. Have nothing to hide. Share results, even if they are not what you aimed for. Own mistakes and develop a plan to rectify it and prevent it from happening again.
  8. Collaboration – Getting input from your client and aligning on the strategy and implementation plan just makes sense. Collaborating with your client – and your team – not only positions the plan for the best outcomes but becomes highly supported because all of the constituents have buy in. Fastcocreate.com shared that 100% of clients agreed that collaboration leads to the best advertising, a key finding in the study The Naked Truth, an anonymous online survey of more than 140 ad agency and brand marketing leaders.
  9. Results oriented – This is about more than getting things done. Build a plan with the goal in mind and measure progress. As marketers, our efforts are designed to build the brands we work for. Maintaining a focus on how well your initiatives are performing and what may need to be adjusted is critical.

These are the key characteristics to strive for. So, while some say the agency-client relationship is struggling, I say it can thrive. That’s why working now at an agency that lives the mantra “Outthink. Outwork. Outperform.” fits so well for me.



Author: Deneen Winters Bloom
Deneen Winters Bloom is our Director of Client Services.

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