At its most basic level, outsourcing your website management and development to a digital agency could be viewed as a straightforward supplier transaction. You pay the agency money; the agency delivers the work. For some companies, this arrangement works just fine.
For others, this isn’t enough and, to be honest, if your agency is interested in giving you a worthwhile service, it’s not great for them either. If you really want to get the best out of your agency, throw away the transactional model entirely. Instead, think of engaging the agency as entering into a strategic partnership. They aren’t just a service vendor; they’re part of your team, and the lynchpin in that relationship is the account manager.
When you are handing over control of your website to the agency for the first time, it can feel a bit like giving your house keys to a stranger. You may be tempted to constantly peep over their shoulder to see what they’re up to. But you need to enter the relationship with trust right from the beginning. Every good relationship is founded on it. So how can you hand over control of something so vital and feel confident that it’s in good hands before any work has started? In a word: communication.
The client take
The account manager’s job is to act as the focal point for your organisation to communicate with the digital agency’s various teams. They need to be relaying your ideas, feedback and concerns to the right parties to get the right solution in place effectively. But crucially, they should be utterly transparent with you about the whole process throughout. That means explaining exactly what service you’re getting, what everything costs, what’s included, how long it will take, and what’s involved. It may mean regular updates too, if it’s a larger project. It also means providing details on how their solution is going to help your business, not just vague reassurance that it will.
Beyond this, a great account manager won’t consider any question beneath their response. And a really stellar one will have the confidence and experience to tell you when they believe that your proposed action isn’t best practice and instead offer an alternative. But in order to get this maximal level of service, there has to be give-and-take. It’s no different to any other relationship, really.
Essentially, once you know that your agency is communicative, goal-focused, and capable—something that ought to be clear within the first couple of interactions—it’s time to introduce them to the business. They need to get to know you in a broader sense than just the one or two contacts they’ll speak to most often. On big projects, that includes talking to the boots-on-the-ground in the departments who will be using the website, even if they aren’t managers or final decision makers. Basically, in order to provide the best way of resolving issues in the long term, to give you the best return on your investment, they need a full understanding of why they’re being asked to do things and how those solutions are going to be put to work in real life.
To the extent that it is possible, providing a strategic overview to your account manager as to why a problem is in fact a problem will also help them determine who on the agency side needs to get involved to tackle it. As transparent as you need them to be in order to trust them, they need you to be similarly up-front with your needs, goals, financial and time budget, and success criteria in order to give you the best service for your money.
Collaboration, not compromise
Last, but by no means least, the agency needs you to accept their command of their craft. Finessing websites, helping businesses like yours achieve their digital goals—this is what they do best. In particular, if they’re accredited in a specific area or if they’re a designated software partner, then it’s not just a pat on the back. It’s an acknowledgment of the agency’s expertise. So, let them share that knowledge with you.
If you’re coming to your agency with a set of instructions that you’ve already strategised and discussed internally, they can implement them, sure. But if you invite your agency to the strategy table in the first place, they’re going to bring an expert point-of-view and a fresh set of eyes to your challenges. They may be able to bring you a solution that’s a better return on investment. They are on your team, after all. They want you to succeed.
If you want to learn more about Quba’s approach to client relationships, contact Senior Account Manager Andy Precious.
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