In today’s world of hiring an agency many clients place emphasis on the value of an agency’s org chart, current client list, the staff that will manage their accounts, so on and so forth.

In the past, prospective clients would be wined, dined and entertained by an agency to secure a contract. Most of the time that involved golf outings, tickets to sporting events, an occasional “free vacation” (yeah that even happened to me once) or other means to lock down that monthly retainer. This all happened while building what I call the “trust factor” with the executives and management team on both sides.

Well, times have changed a bit and less emphasis is given to the actual process of building trust with prospective clients. This, like all other things digital today, is partially due to the fact that no one seems to have the time to invest in building trust with the agency upfront.

When a prospect signs on with any agency, whether it’s here at Cardinal Web Solutions, or anywhere else, far too often the “Advisor” part comes as part of the ink on the contract. At that point it becomes a race to build trust along with managing all of the other moving parts.

The “Blanket Approach”

There is one giant mistake that is made today, which is rushing to the plan of, “hey we know this client kind of, let’s apply the same blanket rules to them as all others.” One thing is for sure, this sort of “planning” (or lack thereof) happens at alarming rates in today’s agency selections and vise-versa. This lack of investigation on both sides of the table is what can lead to that deadly article being written about how agency X just doesn’t get you or your business.

Cardinal Web Solutions takes a much different approach to our engagement with clients; we go above the basics of search engine marketing. Not only do we explain every part of our process down to the X, Y, and Z of how we’ll do it, but we practice what we preach down to the basics.

To be a true Trusted Agency there are foundational principles to live by. These values determine the methods we use, I like to call it the “Duhh” factor.

Surprisingly, it seems these core fundamentals are a dying art form, similar to hand-shake deals formalized at the 19th hole. The true test for most agencies are the first 90 days, regardless of the medium or channel of communications they specialize in.

So here’s what our education marketing agency does, and keep in mind, yeah, this really is the “Duhh” factor. Even if you’re not considering Cardinal Web Solutions as your agency of record, you should at least take a little advice and do a bit of research on who you are considering for your agency of record.

Trust Building, it’s really pretty simple!

  1. Listen: Yep, it seems so simple. A great set of ears requires one to be involved, interactive and above all listening for what is being said, not what you want to hear, or expect.
  2. Structure: Plain and simple, work on giving clear and direct advice. This part of the process usually involves problem solving, and taking points of view, even if it means going against the grain, all of which request trust by both client and agency.
  3. Visualize: Not only should you define and defend the problem, but search for the best and most effective solution. This sometimes involves asking the obvious questions: what are you looking to accomplish? Why do you want to accomplish this? How long do you believe this will take you to reach your goals? As an agency one should never be too quick to offer a solution just by reaching into the same bag of tricks from the past.
  4. Engage: This is where the trust factor really comes into play, it’s easy to sit in on a call and take notes, even to ask questions that seem intelligent to the prospect. However, where this simple to remember, difficult to repeat process falls to the ground, is after those first 90-days. Far too often agency’s become complacent and tend to overlook the value of continuing to build trust.
  5. Commit: This can seem like a one-sided cause and event, agency takes all responsibility and accountability for this to work, and that’s – that. Nothing could be further from the truth. At this stage it would appear that all trust has been built, given that most clients will allow an agency to guide them to the end result, with very little effort from the client.

With this type of process, the agency most likely ends up with a satisfactory result and typically the client feels they were not involved. Let’s add a bit of accountability to this process shall we? A better solution might look like this, coming from the agency, “this will take both of US X amount of effort and time to achieve this together”, as a form of both commitment and engagement at the client level.

Seems pretty simple, right? Well on paper everything looks easy when it’s spelled out for you. I don’t proclaim that us Cardinals do it all perfectly, and word to the wise, if another agency is going to make that bold of a statement, you should run quickly from that very first conversation or please let me know when you have found this “perfection” because I’d enjoy meeting that anomaly.

Our defining moment of how we approach it is to separate ourselves from the crowded space of “I offer Digital Services” by following these 5 little but most important steps, not just on the Golf Course, but even after our first of many what will surely be, Partnership Anniversaries.

*Material Reference:

The Trusted Advisor, by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford.