How To Form Enduring Client-Agency Relationships | DailyVista

How To Form Enduring Client-Agency Relationships | DailyVista


Repost: Originally published on’s DailyVista: Ask An Agency Search Consultant: How to form enduring client-agency relationships

By Josh Stone, Aug 14, 2014

The best client-agency relationships are a two-way street built upon mutual trust, well defined expectations and deep collaboration, but as more decision makers determine that the AOR model is obsolete and CMO tenure remains much shorter than CEOs, it’s harder to create and maintain these enduring alliances. However, despite the changing digital landscape and models where procurement leads the charge into review,  client-agency longevity is still crucial because it produces better solutions and higher return on cost investment.

The question for clients and agency new business executives should be, what can we do to form mutually-beneficial, lasting retainer relationships from the start?

From an agency new business perspective, there’s more to forming these types of relationships than engaging clients at the right time or intimately understanding their opportunities and challenges. Mike Fyshe, partner at Reynolds & Fyshe, Canada’s top agency search consultant, provides fantastic insight about forming strong client-agency relationships in his blog, and he also shared wisdom with us from his 25 years of experience. He sums the situation up this way: “A CMO who hasn’t conducted a review in seven or 10 years, or a procurement executive who is not familiar with the agency industry at all, can’t be expected to have the knowledge to assess the full strengths and weaknesses of this key professional service.”


Mike Fyshe, Partner at Reynolds & Fyshe

He admits that as an agency search consultant this sounds self-serving, but it doesn’t mean it’s false. Ultimately, longevity leads to mutual success for the client and the agency. The agency is able to create better work and stronger results (look at Nike and Wieden+Kennedy, for example), and the client will save on the exorbitant costs of conducting a review, which often leads to short-term relationships, dissatisfaction and another costly review only two-to-three years later.

Instead of spinning a revolving door of AORs, Mike offers some advice below for agencies and clients to ensure a lasting “DNA Fit,” but definitely take a look at his “10 Guiding Principles for Hiring an Ad Agency” too. As he says, forming strong client-agency relationships will take time and resources on both sides (remember, it’s a two-way street), but it is more cost effective in the long run to conduct a review correctly the first time.

For Clients:

1. Avoid Common Errors: Mike outlines these in more detail here, but he particularly touched on the pitfalls of choosing an agency based on its “reputation” or choosing a firm’s past and ignoring its vision. To ensure a long-term relationship from the beginning, an agency must be motivated and have a deep interest in yourbusiness and its success.

2. Determine Specifically What You Need: Develop your requirements, including needs, objectives, budget and success factors, and be transparent about your expectations. There are thousands of agencies and they all provide different cultural philosophies, service offerings and expertise. How small or large an agency do you need? How will your business impact the agency? (Mike says your business should represent at least 10% of the agency’s total revenue but no more than 30%). What is their process? When you meet the agency in person, can you imagine your brand there? A detailed plan ahead of time and full transparency will ensure you’re spending more time evaluating a short-list of the two or three agencies that are right for your business. 

For Agencies: 

1. Are You Being Realistic?: Do you have the experience, skills and capabilities to win the business? It sounds like a simple question, but Mike says agencies don’t ask it enough or answer it honestly. However, answering this question objectively will save you thousands of dollars in time and resources preparing for an unsuccessful pitch. Focus on “DNA Fit” accounts and you’ll have a much higher rate of success closing long-term clients.

2. Demonstrate Your Brand: In initial conversations, and ultimately, the pitch, how will you stand out against rival agencies? What makes your agency unique and separates you from the competition? As Mike points out, your brand demonstration statements should avoid the abstract jargon we often see on agency websites. Make your differentiation relevant to the client’s needs and translate your expertise into client benefits.

3. Be Prepared: Reynolds & Fyshe has many best practices for successful pitches, but one that resonated strongly with me was “Minimize the Risk Factors.” We tend to focus so much on rehearsing  presentations and anticipating client questions that we forget about “Murphy’s Law” – anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  Bring a back up plan for equipment failure and ahead of time minimize risk factors, such as poor time management, lack of focus on key client issues and unfamiliarity with the presentation room.

Mike compared the best client-agency relationships to good marriages. They’re open, honest, trusting relationships and most importantly, they’re long lasting. Today’s digital evolution is certainly changing how clients view AOR relationships, but that doesn’t mean longevity is out the window. Keep the conversation going on LinkedIn and feel free to contact Mike at (416) 518-5458 or [email protected] if you have more questions about forming strong client-agency relationships and review best practices.

The original post appeared on’s The DailyVista on Aug 14 2014: Ask An Agency Search Consultant: How to form enduring client-agency relationships