Digital Marketing, PR 20

10 Key Points in the New Client Pre-Nuptial Agreement

lorirtaylorGuest post by Lori R Taylor, founder of REV Media Marketing llc, is a 20 year marketing veteran, dedicated to direct response metrics and firmly believes “if popularity is vanity then sales are sanity – it’s up to you to decide how crazy you can afford to be.”

Remember that first meeting between the prospective new client and your agency? It was thrilling – a blind date that went so well you were ready to get hitched! They loved you and you loved them.

pre-nupital agreementBut it turns out, you weren’t even on the same page. What you said isn’t exactly what they heard.
It’s terrible to wake up one day and realize your client doesn’t trust or believe in you anymore.

Client concerns are easy to miss because they often start out innocent; an isolated question that can snowball into meaningless reports, endless stops and starts, and incessant approvals choke the campaign’s potential. Eventually, you wake up dismayed, drowning in frustration or anger as you find yourself in a no-win situation positioning for “authority” with your client.

Somehow what you said you were going to do and what the client perceived was going to happen weren’t in alignment, causing them to second-guess your capabilities and therefore the relationship.

The best option is to talk about worse case scenarios upfront. In an always on, difficult to manage, customer controlled, organic social media world, avoiding the heart-to-heart that deals with the inherent risks in any new campaign can doom the new client honeymoon before you even say, “I do.”

Based on my experience (and I learned the hard way) here is a short list of 10 simple precautions you should take before and during any client engagement.

The 10 Components of the Client Pre-Nuptial Agreement

1. Provide a written assessment of the account as you found it, before you sign your contract. Clearly set benchmarks and document projected outcomes based on easy to track success metrics – so there are no surprises.

2. Ask the client to outline their three biggest agency wins and losses prior to engaging with you, clearly noting why they think they were or were not successful with those campaigns.

3. Require quarterly in-person assessments to provide feedback about what you are doing well and where you could improve, with a column for you (the agency) and them (the client). Don’t be afraid to tell them proactively where they need to do better before there is a blow up.

4. Have the client explain to you the top 3 reasons they hired you and recap in writing to them. This ensures their expectations are accurate and underlines where you need to deliver.

5. Provide a clear 30-60-90 day process outline with measurable deliverables and sign offs from client every step of the way.

6. Record every conversation and provide written recaps of those meetings with next steps for the client, outlining due dates for approvals with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

7. Make sure you supply, in writing, exactly what the client must do internally to support your agreed upon strategies. If you sense hesitation, emphasize what is mission critical, so you can adjust strategies and manage expectations.

8. Have a pre-determined escalation plan for missed deadlines and lack of internal support from client.  Get their buy in before launching any campaign.

9. Provide weekly updates of your wins, losses (misfires) and any unexpected opportunities you stumble across.

10. Put in writing what you do NOT do and what you do NOT promise so they clearly understand your capabilities.

Social media marketing is a shiny penny with brands right now. Wild success stories make it look “so easy” that many clients fail to understand how much infrastructure it takes on their end, and their inability to solve problems quickly can take a solid strategy straight to Crazy Town, making you and your agency look like failures.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Trying to be everything to your client will only confuse them and you. Right?

(image by Shutterstock, a Convince & Convert sponsor)

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  1. says

    This is the most useful post I have read recently. Clients sometimes expect too much from your services and you are not even aware of those expectations because you don’t have this one above.

  2. says

    This is a great post, especially #10. Sometimes you have to state what you will not do because simply stating what you will is not enough to clarify what you will not. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lori says

      Thank you Trudy. Yes, I’ve found there aren’t enough ground rules in social media marketing, yet. So many different approaches depending on the agency! Sometimes clients have unspoken assumptions which left uncovered can end up as your biggest disaster. It’s so much easier to set boundaries in the beginning, then after the fact; it eliminates the perception of the “bait and switch”. Have a great day!

  3. says

    As a client for 15 years and an agency guy for 10, this seems like a lot of time spent on “G&A”. If I were the client, I’d rather have the agency spending time on real work than a bunch of CYA memos. If were the agency, and I felt I had to C my A this way, I’d probably fire the client. Just sayin’.

    • Lori says

      That’s a great point – which is why I do it at the very beginning. Giving the client a clear picture of where they are now is about the only way you can show them you did your job. What I’ve found is many clients have big plans for what they want YOU to do, but in order to have a big success, you need their internal support. This list is to avoid the CYA memos in the middle. Set a clear benchmark of the lay of the land, where they want to go and what they can commit to in support of the strategy. By doing this, I’ve reduced the amount of time regrouping midway when it turns out the client didn’t have the resources to manage the influx of leads, etc.

  4. Alexia says

    I think concepts like this are smart and I love relating it to marriages – client/agency relationships require just as much give and take, good communication and boundary setting as personal relationships. My caveat though is sometimes getting too rigid with documentation and recapping expectations takes up too much time! When a client has a tight time budget, too much reporting can eat into your get-it-done time. We find that quick bulleted emails can often cover these bases, but keep the account moving.

  5. says

    “Ask the client to outline their three biggest agency wins and losses prior to engaging with you, clearly noting why they think they were or were not successful with those campaigns.”

    So simple, Lori. And by buttoning it up ahead of time, you can save a lot of time, frustration, and reputation.

    Great job as always!

  6. says

    Lori, recording conversations with a written recap might seem to be too paranoid, but it can prove invaluable later in the process if and when disagreements arise. Loved the article. Thank you.

    • Lori says

      Thank you! I’ve found when done with the right intention and presented the right way, it really builds credibility with the client. I’ve never had any push back and it truly helps everyone get on the same page much quicker.

  7. TR Morrow says

    It seems so negative to start off the courtship with these nitty-gritty details. But it’s often invaluable information to have. Especially when the projects take on a life of their own. Thanks for the tips Lori!

    • Lori says

      It actually comforts most clients-since social media is so new to many brands, they have very little line of sight to how their efforts score right now and most importantly, how their competition is doing. You’d be surprised how this approach kicks off the relationship in a very collaborative spirit.

  8. says

    Being buttoned up in the beginning and knowing the expectations of the customer and the agency is a way to start off a healthy successful relationship – this is a GREAT informative post and also a reminder for all of us….

  9. says

    Wow! What a great idea. The best part is the way it protects both you and the client. Everything is laid out in black and white, Sounds like good business

    • Lori says

      Thanks Jerry “sounds like good business” – it is! Trust me, I’ve done it both ways and this seems like the best way to go fo-sho’!

  10. says

    Great ideas, Lori. I agree – it’s great to cover everything thoroughly in advance and explain what you can and can’t do and make sure the client doesn’t have unrealistic expectations.

    I find, just as in marriage, that as long as both sides are open and communicative, things go pretty smoothly. When you’re left guessing at what one another wants/expects, that’s when problems can arise.

    • Lori says

      You are so right – “both sides are open and communicative” – instead of telling your client what you know, show them. Even though I’m from Missouri originally “the show me state” I’ve found most people want you to “show them the money”. This can be a very proactive way to start your client engagement.

  11. Scot says

    I strongly agree with communication! When Client expectations are different/not clear, problems arise. A plan in place and signed off by the Client will help to mitigate ambiguities. Worked must be defined and signed off for Client success. Communication and an understanding of what roles and responsibilities from each side will help keeping all projects on task. And I love the fact of putting in writing what will be done and what will not be done! Great stuff!

    • Lori says

      Sometimes it is very hard for us to say no, set boundaries or be clear in what we won’t do. We try so hard to please the client – being everything to them, we get spread too thin and end up giving 80% effort across the board, even though we are running as fast as we can. Thanks for the comment!

  12. says

    This is a great post! I can’t tell you how often I’ve worked with companies who say they need more marketing, when really they need this… Better client management. It boils down to retaining customers through clear “expectation building” from the very begging of the relationship. Some companies assume too much about what the client knows – writing it all out for them and holding their hand along the way goes a long way for referrals and repeat business.

  13. letstalkandchat says

    If you’re looking for webinar software, then check out Evergreen Business System. Its perfect for marketers and let’s you automate the scheduling of your webinars, build your list, and even follow up with your webinar registrants. If you’re going to buy Evergreen Business System, then you might as well get a free bonus! So check out and you’ll get a great bonus that tells you how to create a webinar, what is a webinar, and a blueprint for making a successful one. None of the other people offering bonuses are offering this. Hurry in case the guy (some dude that worked on Lord of the RIngs) offering the bonus decides to pull it down.

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