An Honest Guide to Being a Better Client



Let’s be honest, at some point, all marketers have thought: “clients suck”. Of course, a lot of this is unfounded, and many times, marketers hide behind the veil of ‘problematic clients’ to justify sub-par work and other such inefficiencies. But it is also true that some clients genuinely just suck. Now, it is obviously helpful to marketers to have better clients, but the real benefactor is the client itself. Simply put, better relationships with your agency lead to better work, and better work leads to better outcomes for the brand or business. So, even as a client, it is in your best interest to be a ‘good’ client - but what does that even mean? We’ve put together an honest guide to being a better client that’s guaranteed to earn you a lot of love from your agency and lead to better output. So, here are 6 things you can do to be a better client, right from today! 1. Be upfront about your budget 2. Set realistic goals 3. Develop a concrete brief 4. Provide meaningful feedback 5. Abide by the terms of agreement 6. Be empathetic and human!


1. Be upfront about your budget

The most contentious issue in any agency-client relationship is usually the budget. As marketers, we are constantly trying to manage the budget, and the only thing worse than a small budget, is a hidden budget. It is in the favor of both the client and the agency to be completely upfront about the budget (client), and fees (agency), to save time and ensure a good fit. Like most other service industries, marketing is extremely price segmented, and as a client, you can find marketing solutions at almost all price points. This means that your budget is probably too low for some agencies, and too high for others, and the only way to hit the sweet spot is to be upfront about your budget and expectations, even before you share the project brief or any other details.

2. Set realistic goals

Nothing is impossible, sure, but some things are unrealistic. Marketing is not a magic wand that can achieve any goal set out for it. Much like you cannot sell a comb to a bald man, you cannot expect that your marketing agency is going to completely change the face of the business overnight. Work with your agency to define SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound) goals, and then plan towards achieving those, through specific interventions. Furthermore, try and define the immediate goals and objectives, and not just the end result. For instance, your brand goal is probably something like ‘increase market share’, or ‘drive more sales’, but your marketing goal needs to be more specific than that, in identifying the specifics steps you must take so that you can increase share or drive more sales. So, your marketing goal may be something like: “Raise awareness of our brand among urban millennials by X% over the next quarter”

3. Develop a concrete brief

If you aren’t already familiar with the notion of a marketing brief, the simplest way to think about it is that the brief is essentially the question paper, to which the marketing campaign is the answer. Tangibly, the brief is a written document, usually authored by the client, or coauthored by the client and the agency. It defines not just the marketing objective and business goals, but also includes all the relevant information required to provide actionable output. This normally includes a basic overview and history of the brand, the current challenge and business context, the target audience and consumer persona, the brand personality and tone (if it already exists), the campaign budget (including media spends), and the deliverables (what is expected from the agency). Sometimes, the brand already has a singular core insight or brand platform, in which case it should also be included the brief. Finally, if the brand has done any previous campaigns or undertaken any other initiatives, you should include the details of those campaigns and their results as well. A concrete brief helps both the client and the agency maintain sight of the vision, apart from serving as a written proof of consensus.

4. Provide Meaningful Feedback

Marketers and agencies do not work in isolation, and as a ‘client’, you must play a significant role in shaping the brief and driving the agency towards a desirable output. Apart from defining the initial brief, the most crucial role you must play as a client is that of giving meaningful feedback. Many individuals misunderstand this to mean that they must share their opinion on whether they personally like the campaign or ideas presented by the agency. However, good and effective feedback has little to do with a client’s personal preferences, and much more to do with critiquing the idea based on the goals, objectives, implementation and such. For feedback to be actionable, it must be specific and, as much as possible, it must include constructive ideas that can help the agency rework the output accordingly. When thinking about feedback, do not ask yourself ‘Do I like this or not?’, instead, ask yourself ‘Will this work or not, and why?’ Also keep in mind that when you provide feedback, you are commenting on the professional quality of your team and even if you hate the ideas, you cannot belittle the team that created them. Instead, try to provide specific and actionable feedback that helps move the brief forward, rather than getting into a shouting match.

5. Abide by the terms of agreement

Your relationship with your agency, like any other service provider, is ultimately a professional agreement, and is usually well defined by way of a contract, agreement, or memorandum of understanding. In most cases, the scope of work, timelines, ways of working, expected deliverables, and all such details are clearly predefined in the agreement and most agencies will insist on having such an agreement in place before working on any project. In the case of one-off projects, the terms of agreement will usually apply only to that specific project, whereas in the case of retainer projects or long-term projects, the terms of agreement will apply throughout the engagement period. Apart from these details, the terms of agreement also outline any other legal considerations, like confidentiality requirements, non-disclosure, non-solicit, and such, which protect both the client and the agency in the case of unexpected outcomes or disagreements. As a legal party to such an agreement, and in the spirit of professionalism, you are expected to abide by the terms of the agreement in its entirety. Of course, a similar obligation is also applicable to agencies and marketers, and it’s not only the client who must abide by the rules.

6. Be empathetic and human!

At the end of the day, to err is human, and even though it may not seem like it, marketers are also human. No one wants to work with insensitive or unprofessional clients, especially if they treat their teams without empathy and respect, and so it’s your job as a client to make sure that you are professional, courteous, and understanding. Remember that sometimes things go wrong for no reason, and there’s not always someone to blame. As a client, you should be understanding, and while it is important for you to work towards rectifying the issue, you must also remain sensitive of the agency’s effort, and its team. And while you may insist on making the agency work through the night to deliver that all-important creative the next morning, keep in mind that poor working conditions lead to poor output. And so, the real benefactor of your empathy is your own brand! The more empathy you display, and the easier you are to work with, the better work you are likely to receive from your agency and team. Are you looking for digital marketing agencies in Jacksonville? Be sure to check out this helpful guide by DesignRush!


The Invisible Paintbrush is a small agency for small businesses that offers end to end marketing services for pre-launch & early-stage start-ups, solopreneurs, family businesses, freelancers, and more. If you enjoy reading our articles, follow us on LinkedIn or Instagram to keep receiving updates! To share this article, use the social icons below: