How to “Date” Clients and Build Trust Within Your Relationships

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Melissa Sunsdahl Melissa Sunsdahl

Agency-client relationships, much like dating, involve a healthy amount of initial awkwardness followed by a phase of discovery. While that process can sometimes feel uncomfortable, it’s actually incredibly valuable. The trust that’s built between agency and client through that process can lead to truly great things.

Getting to Know You

A 2018 Setup survey found that clients overwhelmingly care about chemistry (96%), creativity (92%), and professionalism (91%) when searching for the right agency partner. When account executives start working with a new client, the best place to begin is positioning and messaging—how you want your audience to think about your company and specific statements crafted to establish the position. Marketing and public relations team members will conduct research, do extensive interviews, and perform creative and digital analysis.

More than occasionally at Well Done Marketing, we have difficult conversations to let clients know that things are not as great as they thought that they were. This is a big inflection point for trust because we’re honest with them and they’re vulnerable with us. It starts the relationship off with really solid ground, and we can build from there.

Signs of an Agency You Can Trust

If you’re thinking of hiring a new agency, how do you find one you can trust?

  • Good agencies are led by well-informed people who offer more questions than answers. Don’t be overly swayed by flashy promises or fashionable buzzwords.
  • They give solid estimates that clearly lay out the scope of the project. Be wary of agencies that change the plan or the estimate once they’ve won the work.
  • They communicate well, speak clearly about the process, and are upfront about what’s expected of both parties. Look out for flatterers and schmoozers.
  • They provide solutions to your problems and help you strategize ways to make the most impact with your budget, whether or not they’ll be doing the work. Be wary of an agency where the solution always seems to involve the one or two things that just happen to be their specialty.

How Trust Enables Boldness

In 2013, we began working with MJ Insurance, one of the nation’s largest privately-held insurance companies. With a move to a new corporate headquarters in 2018, MJ was ready to completely overhaul their brand. Though the client admitted the scope of the change was a little scary, the trust we built through the first few years of our relationship helped us do some bold and exciting work together.

They showed how much they trusted us and we were able to really push the envelope with a fresh, modern and young logo mark that incorporates all the aspects of their brand and who they really are. We never could have done that without such complete trust.

Our agency works to uphold our clients’ brands and help grow their business. We come to them with solid marketing recommendations. The honesty our team brings to our clients is all about moving them forward. Transparency and clear communication are key. That’s why we start any new client relationship with a conversation—face-to-face if possible.

Melissa Sunsdahl is the director of account service for Well Done Marketing, a full-service agency located in Indianapolis’s Fountain Square neighborhood. To meet the entire team and learn more about the agency’s services, please visit

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