Small Agencies

How to Vet a New Client - and Know When to Walk Away

By Ad Age Staff Published on .

Agency-client relationships are a blend of trust, communication and legal documents. When the relationship fails, it's rarely just one side's fault.

While clients are more likely to do the walking, agencies sometimes are the ones that walk away. Handling a difficult client can be, well, difficult. Here are some tips on handling—or averting—a breakup.

'Date' the client before committing.

Make the meetings with a new client count, but determine if the folks behind the brand are ones who respect collaboration and want to be challenged. Also ensure that the executives you will be interacting with are comfortable being told the truth, even when it's awkward or inconvenient.

Think about the relationship all the time.

If a marketer opens a review of an account, it's almost always already too late. Agency heads and account managers need to consistently review the relationship and quickly address any issues or concerns before it gets to that point.

The integrity of the agency and its employees has to come first.

In a difficult client situation, there are likely to be disagreements, blame and hurt feelings. That's when it's time to speak up, especially if your employees are the ones suffering. However, while letting the client know the treatment is unacceptable, it's also important to find out what's really going on.

If the best decision is to walk away, remember to do everything possible to part amicably. You never know when someone on the team will end up somewhere else and you may end up working together again.

If your shop is ready to start dating, turn to LookBook to help show clients what you offer them.

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