There are many factors that make up a good agency partnership. But there’s one without which such a partnership would essentially be impossible, and which all the other factors issue from: communication.
In this post, we’ll further break down how and why good communication with your partner agency is so vital to a successful partnership. We’ll also provide some concrete examples of good vs. poor communication, then finish with some tips on how to communicate more effectively internally within your team and externally with partners and/or clients.
Why is good communication important?
Well, the first and foremost reason why good communication is so important to an agency partnership is that it’s actually vitally important in any kind of relationship, be it personal or professional.
And the aim with agency partnerships is, or at least should be most of the time, to be both personal and professional. As we pointed out in an earlier post, you should strive to be a true partner, not just a contractor that executes whatever happens to be needed.
This transforms the partnership from a mere business relationship into a deeper, more personal one, from which both sides can benefit significantly. At the heart of such a relationship, however, lies good communication.
By frequently communicating with your partner and their team, you ensure everyone working on the project is on the same page and thus greatly reduce risks of errors or failure.
This is especially important since the partnership is typically a remote one, quite possibly with a significant time difference, so a well established feedback loop is extremely important, as are other forms of preparation; e.g. setting a meeting agenda rather than wasting the time of all meeting participants with real-time problem solving.
Keeping your partners updated on the progress of projects with transparent and timely communication is a clear indicator of your commitment to the respective relationship and helps you to establish yourself as a trustworthy and reliable partner, often helping you secure a long-term relationship.
Good vs. poor communication
Let’s now take a look at a couple examples of what (not) to say and how (not) to act to be the best partner agency you can be. We’ll also accompany each example with some possible results or outcomes of the respective approach.
Let’s start with an example of positive communication. The following is a screenshot of our developer Kristina’s conversation with a member of a client’s team from a different timezone:
As you can see, she informs the client when she’s ready to start working on her daily tasks, as well as nearing the end of the day, when she also provides an update on her work for the day and makes sure that she is able to work on new tasks the next day without needing major synchronization with the client’s team again.
This is a general practice of developers of Agiledrop. We strive to be reliable partners to our clients, and the trust we so establish releases them from having to micromanage everything while still retaining complete control of the course of the project.
The fact that we prioritize clear and frequent communication from our very first interaction with a potential client plays an important part here. The way we work requires us to always secure documentation and other necessary materials for optimal work as early as possible, so that we don’t have to make constant re-requests to the client’s project management.
If you’d like to learn more about the ways we strive to cultivate strong client relationships, check out the third chapter in the story of Agiledrop.
Let’s now take a look at an example of a situation where communication could have been better handled. Some time ago, our client adviser Aleš was on a late afternoon call with a client, which was supposed to only last about 15 minutes.
But, since the client’s project manager wasn’t adequately prepared for the call and was trying to find answers to our developer’s questions on the spot, that timeframe quickly stretched out into 45 minutes, essentially rendering the meeting useless.
This is why we pointed out earlier how important it is to set a clear agenda to have meetings be as efficient as possible. You can learn more about the situation described above, as well as get some useful time management tips, in Aleš’s blog post.
How to foster quality communication
We’ll leave you with some tips and best practices of fostering quality communication which have especially proven vital in working with agile methodologies and as remote teammates.
- Good English skills are a must. Since English is the lingua franca, you’ll be doing most of your client communications in English, so a good written and spoken English will be essential to a strong relationship.
- Your internal communication needs to be on point. You can’t communicate well with a client’s team if you can’t communicate and collaborate effectively within your in-house team. Ideally, you would have daily, weekly and monthly team meetings to keep everyone up-to-date.
- You need a good feedback loop. The regular internal meetings under the previous point are a vital element of this, and you also need a similar approach for client communication. The above Slack conversation of Kristina’s daily client update is a great example. Of course, you also need a good strategy for collecting feedback and relaying it to your own and to the partner team without excessive back-and-forths. Check out this post to see how we approach this.
- Good preparation is essential. As stated already, being well prepared indicates professionalism and saves a lot of time and effort for everyone. Don’t forget - weeks of programming can save you hours of planning, so don’t fall into this trap, and think before you start making.
- Acts of kindness and thoughtfulness are never unappreciated. You might think that acts of thoughtfulness would be too personal, maybe even to the point of being intrusive, but the point is, after all, to build a strong, personal relationship. You can add a really nice touch with in-person partner visits, birthday greetings, or by sending and/or bringing small, symbolic gifts.
- Follow the true - kind - necessary rule. This is a golden rule of communication, attributed originally to Persian poet and scholar Rumi, and employed throughout history by several other authors: anything you say needs to satisfy these three criteria - truthfulness, kindness and necessity.
The revelation that communication is the most important thing in an agency partnership may seem like a no-brainer, and thus not really a revelation at all. But it is exactly because it is a no-brainer that we decided to write this up - its importance can often go overlooked, clouded by all the other elements that issue from it, but not getting to the root of it.
But, seeing how all the other elements are so closely tied to communication, we decided to write this up to really highlight the idea that communication is at the core of it all.
And we speak from experience, of course - having worked with numerous clients from different cultures across nearly a decade, we’ve always seen relationships flourish the most when there is good and transparent communication on both sides. These were then typically the partnerships that ended up lasting, and many of them still do to this day.