Great client-agency relationships through proactiveness

Person stopping dominos falling by placing finger on red-colored domino in the middle

A lot of businesses today decide to outsource parts of their digital strategy to specialized digital agencies. Of course, it’s in the best interest of both parties to forge strong, long-term relationships, instead of companies having to find a new partner for every single project and agencies having to rely on a constantly changing clientele to stay in business.

While there are many elements of a great agency-client relationship, there are a few which go a particularly long way towards establishing yourself as more than just a one-time business partner.

Things like trust, reliability and great communication are all key components of a good partnership. But, naturally, companies would rather have agency partners that are great, not just good. Luckily, there’s one trait that can immediately position an agency as a thoughtful partner that’s willing to go above and beyond for their clients – proactiveness

Let’s break this down a bit.

The chief benefit of proactiveness is being able to uncover and solve potential issues before they turn into (big) problems. Work costs time and money, and any pivoting early on will incur much fewer additional costs than retracing your steps in a nearly completed initiative.

Additionally, being proactive in a setting where several different teams collaborate on something (as is very often the case with these types of partnerships) will allow the collaboration to go much more smoothly, since work one person or team does will so often depend on work done by a different person/team. Long wait times, countless back-and-forths and complicated trade offs tend to cause any project to lose momentum.

This point is especially important when collaborating across different time zones; resolving things on your own rather than waiting for someone from the client’s team to log on and help you will have a double benefit:

  • They will start their day on a positive note, seeing that progress is already being made.
  • They won’t have to deal with potentially urgent issues (especially if the agency team member is approaching the end of their work day and wants help/feedback quickly) before even having their first morning coffee.

Ultimately, being proactive demonstrates care for the client’s vision and the goals of their initiative, as well as a commitment to put in your best efforts in order to help make that vision a reality.


How to be proactive?

It’s very difficult to truly be proactive in a waterfall environment where things move more slowly and require the input of many different stakeholders; this is underscored by the fact that the bigger the company, the more difficult it is for them to move away from waterfall, so waterfall is also closely tied to company size and organizational complexity.

Such an environment often consists of silos, which makes proactiveness even more difficult as team members tend to be less familiar with others’ work and how it interacts with their part of the project, and thus doing things quickly could lead to inconsistencies and potentially unnecessary additional work.

And yet, integrating into the client’s team(s) and processes is a must for a healthy collaboration, and it’s also very important in the context of proactiveness: being acquainted with other team members and the work that they do, as well as being familiar with the way they do this work, provides a better understanding of the project and thus enables more effective, proactive collaboration.

Fortunately, agile methodologies have in recent years moved away from something that’s exclusively useful for software development projects, and even a lot of bigger enterprises are embracing agility for a whole range of business processes, making proactiveness much more viable in that type of setting as well.

Basically, if an agency wants to position itself as being proactive, this proactiveness needs to be baked into its very company culture, so that any one of its employees working on whichever client project will naturally approach their work in a proactive manner.


Ingredients of proactiveness

So, what are the traits that distinguish people as proactive? Here we’ll break down 6 that are particularly relevant for a successful digital agency partnership.

  • A solution-oriented approach allows a person to focus on solving problems rather than just identifying and potentially becoming paralyzed by them. 
  • Independence/autonomy is vital to being able to work proactively, since an (over)reliance on others’ input tends to cause friction and slow things down. Note that the type of partnership will also determine the level of autonomy; for example, a client will expect more independence with managed services than with staff augmentation for a one-off project.
  • A keen understanding of the client’s needs is achieved through putting effort into uncovering them rather than agreeing with everything and then making the wrong thing because someone may have miscommunicated something or you may have misunderstood it.
Comic about miscommunication between stakeholders on the example of a swing on a tree branch. Every iteration is unsuccessful due to customer poorly explaining, project leader misunderstanding, programmer making a mistake, etc., but what the client really needed, was a simple tire tied to a branch with a rope.

Avoid these kinds of miscommunication issues by getting familiar with the ins and outs of the project you’re partnering on, as well as with the client’s mission, vision and values. 

  • Using best practices & up-to-date standards is a prerequisite for working proactively rather than reactively. This includes broader industry standards as well as those specific to the client and/or the team you are partnering with. 
  • Balancing big-picture thinking with an attention to detail requires the skills and experience to be aware of broader and/or longer-term implications of new initiatives and potential solutions.
  • Closely tied to big-picture thinking is future-proof thinking, which prioritizes solutions that are future proof over short-term wins. What may look like proactiveness is not really proactive if it leads to long-term issues or failures.


Wrapping up

By instilling proactiveness into its culture, a digital agency can position itself as a caring and committed partner for long-term collaboration. We hope this article can help agency owners learn what and how to optimize, while giving enterprises a better understanding of what to look for in a digital agency partner.

On that note – if you do happen to be looking for a proactive development agency to partner with, get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help make your digital vision a success.