Happy Agency = Happy Client

New ImageI won’t lie to you: Mobclix is a tough client.  Mobclix is the largest mobile ad exchange, led by some of the original founders of BlueLithium — another hot start-up acquired by Yahoo for $300M in ‘07. 

In other words, they’re a hot Silicon Valley property, and they know it. They demand results that match their status.

(Luckily, we’re up to the challenge.)

As you can imagine, there are days when the levels of commitment required to keep a client like Mobclix happy cause some frustration amongst Agency staff.  And that’s not unique to Mobclix: pretty much every cool start-up relies on their Agency team to give 110% every day. 

What’s interesting to me as an agency principal is the differences in how start-ups treat their agency partners, and the resulting action/reaction they get from their teams. 

No surprise: regardless of the difficulties of the client’s story, ultimately great clients get great results, tough clients get good results.

The gang at Mobclix get this.  In fact, yesterday they arrived at SHIFT Communications’ San Francisco offices in 2 stretch limousines, and carted the entire PR team to a luxurious spa for a full manicure/pedicure treatment!   

That’s the kind of event that our client contacts needed to brainstorm about — it was so much more ambitious than calling 1–800–Flowers.  Although we’ll never turn away a gift basket, the mani-pedi-limo party clearly set a new bar for client gratitude. 

More importantly, you could sense the happy buzz that this event caused across the entire office.  We were ALL happier, across ALL teams, knowing that the Agency’s hard work was being recognized.

There will come a day in the not-so-distant future when a member of the Mobclix PR team at SHIFT will find themselves working late in the office, trying to reach an overly-ambitious outreach goal.  When that day happens, my guess is that they’ll be happy to do so. 

(Well, happier.  At least they’ll think twice about biting their nails in frustration.)

What’s the best thing a client has ever done for you?  Did it make you work harder for them in the long run?

Posted on: August 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm By Todd Defren
14 Responses to “Happy Agency = Happy Client”


  • One day, I want to do this for an agency. And take the interns too. Sound like cool people. :)

  • Heather Rast says:

    Oh, I totally get this. As an agency vet, I’m completely familiar with the balancing act between managing (attempting to manage?) client expectations with the greater good of the project and dare I say the team. It’s a slippery slope, one where the irony of a post-agency review comment made by the client was not lost: “You know, we would have respected you guys more if you’d told us ‘No’ occasionally.” Alas, we lost the account we’d so valiantly served for 4 years but the occasion solidified my own intuition – that respect must be earned, and it’s a two-way balance…even if the other guy is footing the bill.

    To your point, I once had a huge client that ran me ragged. I mean serious layout changes past deadline extensions and all that. A narcissistic of his team even verbally abused me on the phone once. But my direct contact always had a “Thank you!” to spare, and he even sent me boxes of product when new models were introduced. Plus, he got me in to the CES and other shows each year, so not a bad deal after all.

  • Wow this post makes a lot of thoughts run through my head. In no particular order:

    The best compliment a client can give me is when they don’t make a comm. move without my counsel.

    Is the budget sufficient for Mobclix’s expectations, or do you over-invest time for “cool” companies?

    Many (not all of course) millenials require so much positive reinforcement just to do the job it sometimes drives me to distraction

    Do you do a retainer model? Also known as the black hole of death, leading to agency staff burnout

    I’m all for tough clients, I think I was one. The best kind of tough client is toughest on themselves. But too often the agency is held to a higher standard than anyone on the client side of the table. I can’t say anything when that happens of course, but that erodes my respect for their “toughness.”

    So in short, a very thought provoking post, thanks!

  • This concept applies regardless of the relationships. I once was heading PR activities for the Blood Bank of Hawaii and learned through the ubiquitous grapevine that we were in danger of losing a very important group of volunteers who had devoted countless hours helping us and had basically been given box lunches as “thank-yous.”

    The individual responsible for scheduling volunteers said (defensively), “They know we appreciate their help.”

    Oh yeah??? They were ready to walk!

    Luckily it was coming up on Volunteer Recognition Month, and for our next Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, I arranged for limos to pick the ladies up at their apartment building, and I was there when they came down with a long-stemmed rose for each volunteer.

    My president was waiting at the event to greet these special guests as they exited the limos, and we had special up-front seating in the banquet room with nametags identifying each lady.

    Nearly 500 blood donors and other supporters were given an overview of the valuable contributions of these wonderful volunteers, followed by a standing ovation in appreciation of their efforts on our behalf.

    End result? The leader of the group came to me to ask when I thought they might be needed so that they could block out the dates on their calendars.

    Lesson learned? People don’t “know” they are appreciated. They have to be told, and the appreciation has to be demonstrated…and real.

    It’s not rocket science…it’s common courtesy.

  • Marc Hausman says:

    OK…so let me understand this. The client typically has unrealistic expectations, demands a level of work intensity that is unsustainable and can be abusive to staff.

    Yet, throwing a mani/pedi party your way makes that acceptable?

  • Jess Flynn says:

    Love this post – and being able to say we have great clients who treat their hardworking PR team (local wines, Broadway tickets, happy hour to chill). But I also love the calls that have no specific campaign or task assigned to them and are just made so a client can say ‘Hey thanks, you made us better’
    Being grateful and showing it is worth it’s weight in mani-pedis!

  • Amanda Guisbond says:

    I wish I could say that I’ve had a client take me out for a mani-pedi before! I think it’s really wonderful Mobclix was able to do so – and agree it will likely inspire the PR team to strive for even greater results.

    That’s not to say that I want every client to shower me with shiny new toys (Starbucks gift cards will suffice). Really, though, it makes my day when a client simply *acknowledges* that they’re pleased with our work and look forward to seeing more results. It could be a one-line email for all I care. But yes a limousine is great too :) .

  • @EvilPRGuy says:

    This a really thoughtful piece, and I’m not certain I’ve ever heard anyone address this subject before. You make a few great points here. I think the most important, is that Mobclix put actual THOUGHT into doing something nice for Shift. It shows that the client actually does have their agency in mind, and does truly appreciate the work, and it’s something they spend some time analyzing. It’s not about the gift per se, so much as it is about the client recognizing your existence, outside of the billing cycle.

    From the agency side, it’s often all too easy to feel that your work, and yourself are just a blip on the clients radar. Being the recipient of a thoughtful exercise that took time to plan surely makes those long hour easy to swallow when they come up.

    Nice job on bringing up a topic that gets little to no airtime.

  • Terry f. says:

    Besides paying on time?

    I had a client send me and my team cans of Whoop Ass Soda (yes, it exists and we all opened it up) and framed clips. And you bet we worked just a bit harder for that client. Human nature. You always work hard, but when you become emotionally attached to a certain level I think the team works much better.

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