Agency Partnership

INK’s 5 Things: Choosing the Right Client Partnerships

By Starr Million Baker

The idea that we don’t work with every company that comes calling is often a surprise to INKers and prospects alike. But true partnership with our clients is essential to the success of our communications programs, and we take that partnership seriously. We measure the potential of every client we’re considering against our “five things.” To determine whether a client is a good fit for INK, we aim to answer yes to at least four out of our five.

Checking out INK as an agency partner or building your own list of client partnership criteria? Let us help you get started.

1. Will We Have Decision Maker Access?

To ensure the partnership is a good one for all parties, we must have access to the ultimate decision makers. These are the people with knowledge of the company, the program, the industry, and the desired future state of the business. INK needs to tap into that knowledge in order to have fruitful discussions about a path forward.

It’s also helpful if our key decision maker, or someone else on the team we’ll be working with, has worked with a communications or public relations agency before. This history lends itself to efficiency. Through their experience, the client will have some knowledge of how they like – or don’t like – to work with an agency, and we can all move a bit faster.

What happens to the partnership if we don’t have access to key decision makers? It would be like pitching a tent versus building a house. They’ll both provide shelter, but only the house has a foundation that’s made to last.

2. Does It Fit Our Industry Expertise?

INK was built with a backbone of B2B technology. This backbone – of data, cloud, security, enterprise, semiconductor, wireless, test, fintech, insurtech, and more – means we can look at the world, and our clients’ stories, from a unique perspective. We’ve had decades of experience turning technical detail into titillating storylines that spark people’s interest.

On top of that B2B tech base, we’ve layered on expertise in B2C technology, software investment, and renewable energy. Come to find out, most stories these days are technical in nature – which makes INK a great partner to communicate the ins-and-outs of tech-enabled businesses.

Do we help promote hair products? No. But if what you’re bringing to market will forever change people’s lives because of the technology you’ve deployed, come talk to us.

3. Is It Financially Viable?

Here’s the deal: we’re a business, working with businesses. Budgets need not be a difficult topic to discuss. We help our clients become more successful, and they pay us for that. We command a fair price for our services – our minimum client engagement runs somewhere in the neighborhood of $180,000 in fees per year, with clients generally spending $360,000 to over $1.2 million annually for the integrated programs we run. Those include public relations – media, analyst and influencer relations; content; design; digital; and the strategy, planning, and research that forms the basis of all campaigns.

We’re also open to doing a series of projects with a minimum investment of $40,000 for the first engagement.

The majority of these are centered around market research, brand identity, messaging and positioning, and product launches.

Working on retainers isn’t our preference – they just don’t usually leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth. We do like to set minimum monthly budgets for planning and staffing purposes, and we find this works well for most of our clients too.

Finally, we want long-term partnerships and find we’re not alone in that. Our typical client engagement lasts from two to five years, enabling us to reach important milestones and long-term visions for success. This means we engage with only a small number of new clients each year due to the depth and commitment of our relationships.

4. Are They Open to a Hot Start?

We believe in quick wins. When we immediately prove our own value, our clients aren’t put in a position where they’re unable to do so on our behalf. We’ve found that the best way to ensure those quick, valuable wins is to start the program off on the right foot.

The “hot start” means we’re all in agreement that we have a problem to solve, and we need to get to it. Usually, hot starts involve some level of research, and we always have an eye to strategic planning that lays the groundwork for quick wins and long-term program success.

This may seem obvious – after all, agencies and clients always want to start their relationship off on the right foot. But being open to a hot start means agreeing that the front-end of the relationship is probably going to cost more. Research is time-consuming and required of all smart, foundational communications programs.

5. Is There ‘Good Work’ Potential?

This last one is a requirement – we must be able to answer this question with a resounding yes: can we be successful for this client? Can we do good work that we’re proud of, and that will have impact – on us, on the client’s business, on the client’s audiences, and on the world around us? Do our values line up with each other in the areas that count, including diversity, equity, and inclusion? Or does this story – and thus, this relationship – just not have legs?

We only take on clients for which we can do good work. We’re growing a business here, but we’re committed to growth that is good for not just our bottom line, but for the world around us.

All that said, the ultimate question we always ask ourselves is this: “Is working with this client in line with our mission – can we do good work with good people, the combination of which will make for a good life?” If all signs point to yes, we’re in good shape.