Beyond the Transaction: Creating the Perfect Marriage

By Nick Riley

I was fortunate enough to meet my wife almost 10 years ago. That’s 10 years of travelling, house renovations, job changes, raising kids, starting a business and learning how marriage works. I’ll be frank – we have very, very different personalities from each other, but we always have a common ground. We have a shared set of values that ensures we respect each other (most of the time) and respect each other’s boundaries. Our marriage is an exchange of values as much as it is an exchange of responsibilities.

The Wikipedia definition of value exchange is when one proportion of a commodity is exchanged for another commodity. In our industry that sounds pretty simple – money is exchanged for a service (usually strategic or creative). This explains a very transactional relationship – job is done, money changes hands, off you go. This may get the job done, but like a marriage – when it’s purely transactional, there’s no love, and when there’s no love, there’s no magic.

The partnership between client and agency is a lot like a marriage – and the best marriages produce the best results. So, I’ve been questioning what it is about a client/agency relationship beyond the ‘transaction’ that makes for a great marriage. I believe that beyond the exchange of commodities, there’s needs to be an exchange of values - a common understanding of what truly makes us tick so that the marriage can essentially produce the love and the magic. Here are a few thoughts on some of the shared values that can produce the best client/agency marriage possible – far beyond the transaction:

  1. Passion
    As creatives we are truly passionate about doing the best work possible for our clients. This is often what gets us out of bed in the morning – pure unadulterated passion for creativity and for design. When a client comes to the table with the same level of passion for their business incredible things can happen. This is a value exchange that will make magic.

  2. Empathy
    It’s easy for an agency to forget that their interaction with a client is often a tiny fraction of their world. Understanding each other’s roles and where we fit into the bigger picture is key to understanding how you can be a positive force beyond the job that has to be done.

  3. Respect
    In the modern service economy we’ve always subscribed to the common belief that ‘the customer is always right’. This may be fine when it’s a purely transactional value exchange, but not when it’s between two partners aiming to produce the best work of their lives. Respecting each other’s opinions and most importantly each other’s values will result in a working relationship that’s based on trust and understanding.

  4. Guts
    Creativity has the unique power to effect change. This is a responsibility not taken lightly, and when this value is shared between agency and client, amazing things can be achieved. I’m yet to meet a creative that hasn’t felt inspired by a gutsy client partner. This can be the stuff of legends.

There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, and after only a few years of it I’m certainly no expert. But if there’s one thing I do know, if an opportunity arises to create a partnership based the values mentioned above, it may well be a match made in heaven.