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Over the years, we’ve found that the key to successful working relationships with clients is to find the right balance with each one.


Every client is different.  Some clients are a single individual and some consist of two, three, or more parties weighing in on the design, creative and brand direction.  Some clients want to drive the the creative direction on projects while others expect the agency to take the lead.  So, how do clients and agencies go about conducting their relationships in a way that feels right for all parties involved?  The key is speaking up, listening to each other, and taking both sides into consideration.  What can agencies and clients do to ensure that everyone feels heard, that the brand, as a whole, benefits from the fruits of your labor, and that you don’t lose your minds in the process?

Agencies, listen to your clients

We’ve heard numerous stories from clients over the years about working with agencies that are driven by a “our way or the highway” mentality.  Hopefully, these are agencies with stellar reputations; although, that isn’t always the case.  This type of agency expect clients to hand the reins over to them because they are the professionals and thus, always know best.  They may be inclined to brush off or ignore your feedback. Why is this a problem?  It is of utmost importance that the client and any business stakeholders buy in to the brand.  Sometimes the truth is that it takes feeling like you’ve had a very hands-on experience throughout the process to feel a sense of ownership in a branding project.

When agencies don’t listen to clients, the resulting brand or website project usually concludes in one of these ways:

  1. While visually pleasing, the end result misses making a connection with the business and/or it’s people
  2. The end result is perfect “on paper” but leaves the stakeholders feeling like something is missing
  3. The end result is so magically sublime that stakeholders, despite feeling disenfranchised, can’t help but love it (almost never)
  4. The client or agency cancels the project and one or both sides feel disgruntled

Clients, listen to your agency

At the other end of the spectrum are clients that come into the project with a “customer is always right” perspective.  This sets the relationship dynamic up for failure from the start.  Why?  Because, in this particular type of relationship, it is in the best interest of the project to trust the agency you’ve chosen to do the job you’ve hired them to do.  Does that mean deferring to them on everything?  Absolutely not!   Whether building a logo, an entire brand, or a website, the process should be CO-creative.  Clients should bring their input, thoughts and feelings.  Agencies should always bring their branding expertise and best advice even if, at the end of the day, the client chooses to ignore it.  Chances are, there is a very good reason they are holding their ground and communication is the way to get to the root of that reason.

When clients don’t listen to their agencies, the resulting brand or website project usually concludes in one of these ways:

    1. No one is happy with the project; not the client and definitely not the designer or agency
    2. The project winds up taking way too much time (that equals costly for one party or the other)
    3. The client is happy with what is essentially their own “frankensteined” creation but then they run into problems down the road (that the designer or agency warned them about)
    4. The client or agency cancels the project and one or both sides feel disgruntled