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5 Quick Tips for a Successful Client/Agency Relationship

Every day at OBI, we have the opportunity to work on challenging and rewarding projects that push us creatively. We use research-based strategies to challenge traditional assumptions. We make an impact, for the companies we work with as well as for ourselves.

What’s the reason our days look like that? It all boils down to the trust we’ve built with our clients.

In every relationship between OBI and our clients, these five areas are our keys to success.

  1. A personal foundation
  2. Clear communication
  3. Accountability
  4. A committed team
  5. A strategic approach

Whichever side of a client relationship you fall on, you can help ensure a successful relationship by making sure each of these five elements is in place.

In his career bridging both sides of the agency-client dynamic, Joe Menaugh has gleaned a lot of wisdom. He puts this knowledge to use every day as OBI’s director of client operations. So, we got him to pull back the curtain on how OBI uses these five key points to cultivate top-tier relationships with our clients.

1. Stronger Relationships for Stronger Clients

With every new client, we build the relationship from the initial setup and meeting. Early on, the goal is to learn as much as possible about a client. Understanding their needs and where their perceived gaps are helps us apply our internal resources most effectively and ensures that we all start off on the right foot with regard to shared goals.

Beyond that, our accounts team strives to build a deeper connection, because it helps us cultivate next-level relationships with clients.

“Especially with clients we’ve had for a number of years, we’ve gotten to the point where it is more than just a first-name basis; it’s a true friendship,” says Menaugh. “We’re able to take it to that next level with a lot of our clients because the way our account direction is set up. Our account directors have real ownership and oversight of a client, with autonomy and flexibility to work with a client and do what makes them comfortable.”

More often than not, that leads to a deeper, more personal relationship. And that lets us do more than just provide what was asked for — knowing so much about our clients gives us the ability to present new opportunities we think will complement what we’re already doing.

2. Happy Talk

We may love Led Zeppelin, but we never want a communication breakdown!

In many ways, the client/agency dynamic is no different from any other relationship. When we start out, it’s critical to set expectations on both sides — as much as we want to learn about them, we want our clients to know how our team works and what our process is. One aspect of those expectations entails communication — how often they want to hear from us and who we should be talking to.

“We want to make sure that we understand the dynamics the client has internally and how our larger team communicates back,” says Menaugh. “But ultimately, it comes down to listening to what they need, initially, and putting a plan in place to make sure that both sides understand, from the day we start to the day we finish a given deliverable, the rationale behind what we’re doing and then how it’s going to be communicated.”

3. Trust Exercises

Without trust, any relationship is doomed to fail.

As OBI’s lead in driving the implementation of our project management and accounting system (Workamajig), Joe has a clear view of the value it provides for both clients and the agency.

For us, Jig isn’t just an accounting system — it’s also an accountability system. Streamlining our processes through Jig has given us a more accurate way to estimate projects. Through it, we ensure we not only estimate each project fairly but also are able to manage workflow on our end to keep things humming smoothly.

Beyond managing our internal processes, using Jig gives us a simple way to pull down the exact dollars going into a deliverable. If a client requests reconciliation on what is being provided, we have that at the ready for them. “The creative and the deliverable we always know are going to be exceptional,” says Menaugh. “And through Jig, we can easily demonstrate the value for each client.”

4. Matchmaker, Matchmaker … 

When onboarding a new client, Joe and the rest of OBI leadership are very specific and focused about who is assigned to the account. Across our agency we have various levels of expertise and knowledge in different industries. As we approach different clients, we are intentional about making sure that each person they’re going to work with is going to be a fit — based on individual strengths, past work, how they’ve worked with a similar client or how well we expect they’ll sync up with the client contact.

The fit with the team a client will work with is the first thing that we consider in the onboarding process. Each client/agency relationship needs to be as strong as possible.

“We take client assignments very seriously,” says Menaugh. “We want a great fit. But we don’t want to overwhelm somebody who is already working with various clients, because all that’s going to do is split their focus. Maybe one person doesn’t have as much industry experience as somebody else. But their personality and their availability to work with and learn that client is more paramount than knowing the industry, because they’ll be able to know and support the client on a much more aggressive basis.”

5. A Strategy for All Seasons

What happens when there are differences of opinion regarding a project’s direction?

One of OBI’s greatest strengths, and a large reason why a number of our clients work with us, is that we root every decision we make in research and strategy. There is a rationale for everything we do, for every creative concept, every social post, every targeted ad. We don’t build strategies on hope.

Even so, there are often times when a client comes back to us and says, “Where you are is great, but I want it to be here,” or “Can you do something different here?” In those cases, we will go back to the client and provide our rationale for how we got to where we were. We provide our expertise, and in our experience, we may have seen similar concepts succeed or fail, which factors into our recommendations.

“But ultimately,” says Menaugh, “that word ‘recommendation’ is where we live in a situation like that. We will always provide the client what they’re looking for. But we will also bring to the table a unique perspective so that each client can have the options they both want and need. And based on the information a client gives us, we will present how we think we can make a client’s choice work well, even if it’s not our initial recommendation.”

The Final Word

“The endgame for everything we do is to provide exceptional service to our clients. This is a customer business: We’re not selling widgets; we’re not giving customers a product and then they’re leaving. Generally, they’re with us for the long haul. And they’re coming to us for a myriad of real needs and reasons. So the expertise that our team provides, coupled with the customer service that we have, builds a better customer relationship. That’s one of the things that we do really, really well here, work with customers. It shows in the retention and expansion of a lot of the long-term clients that we’ve had.”

Not every agency makes a wholesale commitment to relationship. But OBI is not like every other agency — on purpose. We’re not here just to grow ourselves; we’re here, every day, to grow our clients and to see them succeed.

Similarly, we’re not just a creative shop. We never have been. Do you want to partner with a full-service marketing agency and get the services you need to grow your business? Talk to us today. We’re ready and waiting to build the relationship that will get you where you want to go.