We make choices about what we trust every single day. What we read on the internet. What we see on social. What goes into the food we eat. The products we use. The marketing we are exposed to. The brands we buy into. The people we meet. Trust is a deeply human construct and is deeply personal. It’s a fundamental building block of relationships. So, when it comes to selecting an agency to work with, it’s no surprise that trust is a huge factor.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘people buy people’. One of the basic questions we subliminally ask ourselves when we ‘buy into someone’ is, ‘do I trust them’? Do I believe what they’re saying? Can I relate to this person? Are they sincere? Have they really listened? Do I like this person, and could I work with them? Clients have heard it all and seen it all. They see through the smoke and mirrors. So why not just say it how it is? Be honest and build real trust from the start. Sounds easy. Apparently, it’s easier for some than others.
See Through It
Transparency is key. Too many times have we watched directors, heads of department and other senior figures get wheeled out at a pitch, only for the junior account manager to be left in command of the live project. The trust is broken immediately. We know clients want access to the specialists and senior experience. After all, it’s this expertise they’re paying for. Of course, projects need to be co-ordinated with timing plans, costs and a point of contact to ensure the process is smooth, but not to act as a barrier between the client and the experts.
Hear me out
Knowing and respecting your role within a project can be a surprising challenge for some bigger agencies. To truly understand that an agency can never know a business better than the business itself seems obvious. Yes, agencies can inform about industry trends and technology etc. But sometimes, it’s best to just shut up and listen. Because how else can an agency understand what’s important to that business and to the individual? Too many agencies think they know the answer before they’ve really listened to or explored the problem. Some challenges can have simple answers, sure. But most problems requiring help from an agency have many facets, and not all of them will be written on a brief or be revealed in the first conversation. The solution might be the same, but the way you arrive at that solution may be very different. The journey is just as important as the destination when it comes to trust.
Process and Pro-Client
Understanding how clients like to work is pivotal here. Listening and actually hearing what a client is telling us is wildly more beneficial than getting lost in an endless labyrinth of arrows, circles, dotted lines and sub-diagrams. How can an agency ensure their processes truly benefits the client as well as the agency? Trust is stronger when the client can trust in the process. Transparency of measurement is also key. Sharing access to consoles and honest analysis of performance that recognise failings with active solutions as well as successes is a more trustworthy approach than dressing up mediocre results.
Trust and Beyond Delivery
Trust between a client and an agency goes far beyond the transactional. Beyond the obvious factors of delivering what has been agreed, for when it was agreed. Some semblance of trust can be built in the first few meetings, but it will always require a measured leap of faith for a client to convince their stakeholders that a new agency is the right option. And knowing that the agency team contains people who will act on your behalf with your interests at heart is something not all agencies place a great deal of importance on when working with clients. But they should. People who know what’s important to the client. What they need and how. Even how a client would think if they were standing in their shoes. Making those behind-the-scenes micro decisions on their behalf, for their benefit. This is a proper client/agency team relationship that will last.