Forging Client Partnerships Through Trust, Not Transactions
As part of an account review with a longstanding client last year, our primary marketing contact said to me, “Jeff, we have some new team members starting with us and I want your team to give them a download on the business. Your people have been working on it longer than everyone on my team.” While we have an enduring partnership, I asked him why he trusts our people to lay the foundation for his new hires. He replied, “Because FARM’s not an ad agency to us; you’re advisors. You don’t just know our marketing; you know our business.”
These comments caused me to reflect on a lot of our deep-rooted relationships. In almost every case, it had been built on some key principles that are inherent to all our client interactions.
It’s the Motivation, Not the Marketing
At FARM, we understand that we can deliver what we all think is superb marketing that still won’t move the client’s business forward. That’s why annual reviews with clients, and any initial onboarding with new clients, revolve around the goals of the client’s business, not just the client’s marketing department. All marketing goals (like those for sales, operations, or customer service) should contribute toward the larger success of the whole organization.
Marketing leaders don’t keep their jobs by delivering marketing results alone. They do it by ensuring those results benefit sales, retention, or any number of key business metrics.
Risk Isn’t Just a Client Concern
The first agency principal I worked for said, “We are selfish. If our clients succeed, we succeed. Growing companies spend more money on marketing.” At FARM, we take that a step further, believing that our clients’ failures (or those of our vendors) are our failures, too. True partnership means being accountable for the good and the bad, and the feedback we get from our clients is that agencies that share in the risk are more valuable.
This is illustrated by a direct mail campaign FARM produced a few years ago, where the combination of a new coating and new machines at the post office resulted in a portion of the mail pieces suffering from significant scuffing. As you would imagine, our client was not pleased. Our response, after consultation with our printing partner, was to fund a complete remail, including the cost of production and creative services. The problem wasn’t even our fault but stepping up to make it right with our client sent the right message.
We aren’t just there for the champagne in good times. We have your back in the unfortunate times, too.
Invest in the Future
When it comes to keeping happy clients for decades, FARM’s approach has always been rooted in the basics: listen, learn, and look closely.
It starts with regular check-ins at every turn, from our annual client survey to informal discussions about how FARM is delivering on our promises. From there, we incorporate planned time for shared learning where we discover how progressive marketing thinking and tactics can apply to our clients’ businesses. We do this by hosting client lunch and learns, technology updates, and industry snapshots. Last, we make sure we always look for opportunities to improve, from project retrospectives that identify areas for increased effectiveness or efficiency to forward-looking exercises to identify ways to make the next project more successful using new technology or tactics.
As we all know, partnerships are earned, never granted. And just like anything else you want to grow, a fruitful relationship’s development takes care, nurturing, and time. That’s our playbook in a nutshell. And our genuine dedication to our clients—and our own people—has paid off with a client roster filled with decades-plus client relationships in an industry where a three-year stretch is the norm. That’s not just the result of what we do; it’s because of the trust our clients put in us to do it.
If your relationship with your marketing agency feels more like a transaction than a true connection, please give me a call. I’d love to discuss how we can help.