SMPL Q&A: 4 questions on the client and agency relationship with Betsy Thomas

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SMPL Q&A is a blog feature in which we interview experts on all things relevant to branding, design and simplicity. In this Q&A, we speak with Betsy Thomas, group director of account management in New York, about the client and agency relationship. 

What challenges can the account director address as the intermediary for the client and agency?

The account management team serves a unique function for Siegel+Gale. As an integrated B2B branding agency, we’re involved with the project from start to finish: from the “lightbulb” moment to the final product.

When we have true partnership with the client team, we become part of their culture and serve as confidantes in the decision-making process. The best client partnerships are the collaborative ones that last long after the initial engagement is complete.

What typifies the Siegel+Gale client relationship?

Siegel+Gale has been American Express’s agency of record for many years. As an account executive, I work closely with their brand team to create and uphold the American Express standards globally as their offerings change and the landscape evolves.

We’re constantly seeking new opportunities for the American Express brand to grow. Having spent years learning their business, looking from the outside in, we are uniquely suited to make connections they might not see as easily or introduce new ideas.

The relationship manager often plays a strategic role in evolving client relationships—can you give an example of this?

When we were working on the loyalty program, Plenti, the Siegel+Gale team was able to form a unique relationship—friendship even—with our client team that enabled us to bounce ideas off one another, challenge each other’s opinions and maintain tremendous momentum for the American Express brand. Working together toward our common goal of launching the brand successfully, we built a close client partnership that led to further opportunities. Because our client team deeply trusted us, they were enthusiastic about us taking on projects outside of our set of specified expertise, which led to an integrated and successful launch.

How can clients maximize their relationship with their account management team?

We’re B2B branding experts, but more important, consultants; we like to be asked questions and help fill in the blanks. In the best engagements, clients offer feedback that’s peppered with questions and seek clarification. It goes without saying, but trust, respect and a simple thank you is often the best way to begin a critique or offer constructive criticism. We take a lot of care in our work, so when we’re met with support, the work is collaborative and the end result is something everyone believes in.

How do relationships evolve over time following the initial engagement?

As our client relationships grow, the brands we create move from concept to reality. That brings a new set of challenges. Through employee engagement strategy and implementation, we ensure that employees know the brand, what it stands for and how to act upon it. Consistency is key—customers need to understand the company’s point of view, recognize it visually and feel connected throughout the entire brand experience. For brands that do this well, it comes down to investing in strong training programs for employees along with tools and processes that ensure a high standard of brand compliance. Client relationships evolve over time, as do the needs of a brand, so the lasting relationships, the client engagements that we see as most successful, are those that develop into a true partnership between a brand and its branding agency.

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