Agency/Client Relations: Dating, hookups and drunk dials

woman on phone

By Eric Berrios

Every rep and salesperson will say the same thing… Working with an agency is about the relationship. The chemistry. The personalities. What they failed to mention is how did you get here? What is your relationship and what are you looking for? How many battle scars do you have?

Let’s start at the beginning… So, you want to meet a nice agency?

Stop. Right where you are.

Rethink that framework, and think about what would you do if you were looking to meet a person? With (base guitar riff) romantic intent.

The most important thing for you to know is you. Not the other person. You must be incredibly, wildly clear about what you want. Can you imagine hiring an agency because “opposites attract?” Hell no.

This isn’t innovative… dating and agency life have the same steps. You may or may not be good at this…

You Figure Out You. Are you a hot mess? A dumpster fire? Do the hard work and figure out who you are and what you want. You cannot skip this step and have a healthy relationship. If you are daunted by the idea of dating, just imagine how bad a mistaken hire could be because you weren’t clear about what you really, really wanted.

If you have no interest in a long-term thing, say so -you just want a hook-up. Cool, no judging, but be clear. If you desperately want to find a soul mate, say so. And you better have your house in order. The last thing a healthy agency needs is an unhealthy client. Be clear… state your intentions and your expectations – to yourself!

Get off your couch. Get out there and see what the world is like. Before you do the big agency review, have you even been in 10 agency offices within the past 2 years? How will you know what you want if you haven’t been exposed? Associations, friends, colleagues… they’re all great sources. Ask a friend to bring you to meet their agency team. No pressure, no expectations, just get out.

This is the professional bar scene… Just scope the space out. Think to yourself “yes, no, no, maybe, hard no, maybe, yes…” Take mental inventory of what you think could be a good fit. Build a relationship lexicon.

The biggest difference here is that agencies tend to come to you. Don’t rely on that and let that frame your worldview. Meet many people, particularly those not interested in you. The Friendzone is your friend!

Yes. Take that date. So, you met someone you think you like. Yes, you should take that date. That incredibly low-risk date; coffee, in a public place, for a finite time, with lots of exits. This is that test project. And yes, pay the agency for it. Spec work is the worst… it’s basically going on a date “expecting” something.

Don’t be that person. Make it pleasant and fair to everyone. If you DO like this person, what do you want them to think of you? Do you want their first impression to be feeling used? Nobody wants that.

For a client/agency this is a simple project that lets them shine. Don’t make it the sort of thing that they would need to have intimate understanding of your brand. That’s like bringing them to a wedding and expecting them to know your relatives. Intimate. This is more about them than you… how do they work? Do you like it?

Well, that went well. Yay! You survived a first date/project. Nobody embarrassed themselves, vomited or revealed how awkward they really are. Do it again. No, seriously, do it again. Try something together of similar size, risk and value.

Why would you rush into something after the first date? Really, has that EVER worked for you? No. Do it again, and see if both of you were only on your best behavior. Give it time to develop and mature into something shared. These are micro-relationships, forming and evaporating very quickly. Pay attention to the details as you consider “hmmm… hard maybe!”

So what should you do as you get ready to get into the agency dating scene:

  1. Self-Awareness. Have a crystal clear view of yourself and your potential partner. This may be a really good RFP or creative brief. And keep that crap to yourself for a while as you keep improving it!
  2. Experience. Get out of your own skin and meet the world. Visit every place and meet any agency who will host you. Rely on your referrals. You’re just getting a fresh look at the dating scene because let’s be honest, it’s been a while.
  3. Patience. Go slowly! Repeat a few things with a high degree of skepticism. Give your potential agency (and yourself, honestly), time to drop their guard. You want to know them a bit before it gets serious. 2-3 low risk, high engagement projects are perfect.

Oh yeah… the Drunk Dial! Every agency looooves this one. It’s the client who hasn’t turned work to you for a long time. They’ve all but moved on. Yet, today, they come back because they have a looming deadline and whatever they were trying didn’t work. But you, YOU would be perfect for this because you know them so well. You get them and you could whack this out in your sleep. Quickly. For less than you think it’s worth.

We wish you wouldn’t do this. It messes with our heads, sets us up for false hope and is generally disappointing. We also hate ourselves a little bit because we know we’re going to do it anyway 🙂

About the Author

Eric Berrios is a client evangelist who has built a career delivering strategic creative solutions for a wide range of B2B clients, Eric has built a reputation on a strong opinion and philosophical approach.

Eric is rarely at a loss for words and is adept at guiding a conversation through a procedural, logical style that ends with common sense, understandable lessons. Available for marketing consultation and speaking opportunities. |