Marketing Agencies Guide to Managing Client Expectations & Engagement

In a recent survey we conducted with over a hundred marketing agency professionals, we found an important insight. The second biggest challenge marketing agencies face — second to getting and keeping clients — is managing client expectations. 

However, a lot of the challenges associated with managing client expectations depend on the level of client engagement. You may have one client who is very involved in your day-to-day activities, wanting lots of updates, and discussion around strategy. Then another client could be completely hands-off and want you to manage everything for them with a check-in every month or so. Because you want to provide the best service possible to your clients, you cater to both. 

But this approach can leave you and your team with changing priorities, demanding clients, and unrealistic expectations for their role. To help, here are the top challenges when it comes to managing clients as a marketing agency, and what you can do to solve them. 

chart showing the top challenges marketing agencies face

Challenges of Managing Client Expectations & How to Solve Them

1. Changing Goals and Priorities

Clients’ goals and priorities can change over time. What was initially important to the client may shift, and you have to adapt to these changes. This can be extremely challenging if their shift in priorities means a shift in your marketing strategy. 

Ideas to solve: 

When a client’s needs change, the goal is to always serve that client and fulfill those needs. However, there is a time and place to make changes in a way that will maintain the performance of existing strategies and ensure the success of future ones depending on the pivot required. 

  • Conduct periodic assessments to understand your client’s current objectives and challenges. This involves evaluating their market position, target audience, competition, and industry trends. These assessments can help you align your marketing strategies with the client’s. Additionally, as a client’s needs change, they can serve as the designated time to make changes versus the client proposing a change mid-strategy. 
  • Provide clients with insights and information on industry trends, consumer behavior, and emerging opportunities. Educate them on the potential impact of their changing goals and priorities on the marketing strategy. This can help clients make informed decisions.

2. Budget Constraints

Clients have limited budgets for their marketing efforts, which can impact the scope and scale of campaigns. It can be difficult to balance budget constraints with client expectations for results too. 

And unfortunately, when budgets get tight, marketing agencies are often the first thing to get dropped. But you can use the tactics below to not only manage client expectations when it comes to the budget but also to help with client retention during economic downturns. 

Ideas to solve: 

  • Allow for flexibility in your services. For example, provide a volume or a la carte-based approach when possible for your services. Clients can “turn on” or “turn off” services as needed, or downgrade and upgrade as needed. This ensures that strategies can be scaled up or down depending on the client’s needs and budget — without forgoing your services entirely. You can also take the approach of charging based on the hours required to complete certain requests. This not only allows flexibility in work but provides transparency to your clients. 
  • Consider performance-based compensation models, where a portion of your fees are tied to achieving specific performance targets. This aligns your incentives with the client’s budgetary constraints. It’s best to only use this approach if you feel confident in your measurement and reporting and ability to deliver results though. So some marketing services are better than others with this approach.

3. Measurement and Reporting — ROI

Clients may have specific expectations for how the agency measures and reports on campaign performance. If these expectations are not aligned with the agency’s capabilities or industry standards, it can lead to dissatisfaction. And though we’re talking about challenges for the agency, one of the biggest marketing challenges for businesses is calculating the ROI of marketing activities. So if you can manage expectations well here — you’re sure to win over clients. 

Ideas to solve: 

  • Align your methods for calculating ROI with your clients. All too often agencies will report one number for a specific key performance indicator (KPI) while clients have another for the same KPI. So it’s best if you can get access to their systems to manage it with them versus trying to track it for them — make them a part of the process. 
  • Regularly report our ROI and educate clients with frequent updates. Schedule regular reporting meetings with clients, and educate them on ROI calculation methods if needed, fostering transparency and understanding of campaign performance. 

4. Lack of Communication

It’s important to maintain open and transparent communication with clients when addressing needs, budgets, or reporting. That’s why for any strategy to truly solve the challenges above, you have to have open, honest communication with your clients. 

Effective communication is crucial in any client-agency relationship. If both parties don’t communicate clearly, misunderstandings can arise, leading to unmet expectations. Agencies may struggle to explain their strategies, timelines, and results in a way that clients can easily understand.

Ideas to solve: 

  • Maintain open and frequent communication with clients. Regularly schedule meetings or check-ins to discuss their evolving goals and priorities. Encourage clients to share updates and changes in their business strategies. And any time you’re launching a new strategy, inform the client and provide status updates as needed.
  • Maintain thorough records of all communications, changes in goals, and revised strategies. Having a documented history of discussions and decisions can help ensure alignment between the agency and the client.
  • Involve the client in decision-making processes and strategy adjustments. Encourage them to provide feedback and share their insights, as they often have valuable perspectives on their industry and customers.

By working closely with clients to find creative solutions and maximize the value of their marketing investments, you and your clients can navigate these challenges while still achieving both goals.

How to Improve Client Experience

Overall, businesses engage marketing agencies to leverage the expertise, resources, and strategies that can help them reach and engage their target audiences effectively and achieve their marketing goals.

You are essential to your clients achieving their goals. But at the end of the day, your clients want results. So the biggest thing you can do to improve the client experience is make sure you are constantly demonstrating your value. Some ways to do that: 

  • Consistently report on KPIs and ROI, demonstrating the value of your services.
  • Showcase tangible results that align with the client’s business objectives and show the impact of your efforts.
  • Offer proactive suggestions for improvement based on data and performance analysis, to display a commitment to your client’s success.

The last point here is often what marketing agencies can miss. Executing the marketing strategy isn’t enough. Businesses came to you for your expertise and guidance. So being able to reflect and make recommendations on strategies moving forward is the real value-add beyond providing an ROI on existing strategies. 

How to Get Your Clients to Engage 

One challenge we hear from our marketing agencies that utilize GatherUp is it’s difficult to get clients to log in to a platform. We hear you. That’s why we recommend marketing agencies who use GatherUp as a reputation management tool manage it for their clients. With automation features built to save you time — you’re able to effectively manage your client’s online reputation without a ton of additional work. 

And we just recently built a Client Staff Form. This feature offers a pathway to adding customer data (manual or CSV import), without needing to log into the application. Regularly adding customer data is one of the most crucial actions of successful reputation management, and a friction point, especially for agencies. Here’s a recording of how to find the Client Staff Form URL and how it works in our platform: 

If you’re already a GatherUp customer, we recommend you tell your client or the person submitting this information to bookmark the Client Staff Form link for easy access when it’s time to upload customers! 



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