5 questions to ask your clients


To find out what clients really think of your agency, as opposed to what you’d like them to think, requires you to ask some brave and searching questions.

Understandably, most of us prefer compliments to criticism but where your business is concerned it is imperative to understand how you are really perceived, even if this reveals some uncomfortable truths.

Seeing the agency through your clients’ eyes is the necessary starting point for change and development.

So what are the questions you should be asking your clients? As a starting point, here are 5 suggestions from Jonathan Kirk, Founder of Up to the Light:

1. Can you describe our agency – our personality, ethos, approach, point of difference?

You may find that clients struggle to answer this question and that, in itself, is revealing. Clients often view an agency through their experience of 1-2 key individuals and have little sense of the ‘brand’ beyond. Do your clients believe that the agency has a point of difference or are you largely interchangeable with 50 other agencies that also do good work? If you are trying to build your agency’s brand and reputation to be bigger than individuals, then this is a key question to ask.

2. Is there any particular type of project or challenge, within our broad area of expertise, that you might not consider us for?

This question helps you to understand the boxes that clients may be putting you in, either fairly or unfairly. Do they see any gaps in your skill set? There is nothing more annoying than being overlooked for a project that you are well capable of delivering, so the answer to this question has the potential to forearm you and allow you to shift an incorrect perception.

3. Would you like us to be more proactive in any way?

Proactivity is so often the difference between good and excellent client relationships, so why not ask a direct question? Is there anything that you can do to meet and exceed client expectations in this area? Different clients, depending on their seniority, will view proactivity slightly differently so the question can reveal some interesting areas that you may wish to focus on.

4. If you could give our agency just one piece of advice what would it be?

This is a great question to ask your best clients. Fans of your agency will often give a well-considered, quite rich answer. It can sometimes point to an underlying weakness or concern, or be a useful comment about your future best direction.

5. Is there anything we can learn from other agencies that you know or have worked with?

Clients’ heads can be easily turned by another agency. Perhaps it’s some proactive new business activity, a presentation that looks at their brand and market differently or some creative work that pushes the boundaries. The client can suddenly see you, the incumbent agency, as perhaps a little too comfortable and start to think, ‘Why isn’t my agency doing some of these things?’ However, it is unlikely they will volunteer this information. You have to probe. Of course, there are many more questions to ask, as well as questions that some clients will be uneasy about answering to your face. There is huge benefit in conducting an independent Client Survey across all your key clients so that you can draw balanced conclusions, rather than reacting to the views of just one or two clients. Client relationships need to be monitored because as Peter Drucker said, ‘What’s measured improves.’