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Brent Weaver on: How Can Agencies Effectively Navigate and Address Challenges in Building Trust with Clients?

Updated on April 18, 2024

9 Min Read
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Brent is no stranger to Cloudways. As the founder of UGURUS, Brent Weaver has been shaping the digital agency landscape since 2012.

With a track record of success in scaling agencies, including the rapid growth of UnlimitedWP to over $100k per month in just 18 months, Brent brings unparalleled expertise to the table.

Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Brent Weaver to share his insights on agency scaling and client trust-building strategies.

Let’s get started…


1. To start, could you introduce yourself and share your expertise in coaching agencies, specifically in helping them navigate and address challenges related to building trust with clients?

My name is Brent Weaver, founder of UGURUS. We’ve been helping scale digital agencies since 2012.

I’ve founded two digital agencies, the first I exited in 2012 and the second, UnlimitedWP, we scaled to $100k+ per month in 18 months and now have a 100+ team.

Day to day, I run UGURUS at DigitalOcean. I bring this experience to the 250+ agencies that we coach to grow leads, sales, and delivery.

2. Which agencies have you mentored in the past, and who are the founders of these agencies?

We’ve mentored 2,000+ agency founders at UGURUS. You can read more about specific stories at ugurus.com/results.


3. Trust is crucial in client-agency relationships. What are the common challenges agencies face when it comes to building and maintaining trust, and how can they effectively address these challenges?

Most agencies rely almost 100% on referrals and word of mouth to grow their agency. That puts a lot of the initial trust in the referrer’s relationship. The best way an agency can establish more trust from new clients is to become known for something–develop ‘raving fans’ before you ever sign a client.

Once you have a client, it’s all about getting your client results and maintaining a tight relationship. If one of those things falls, then you’re on the way out.

Besides that, it’s the usual stuff: do what you say you will do, follow up with clients/reply quickly, and show up when you say you will.

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4. Communication plays a vital role in trust-building. How can agencies ensure transparent and effective communication with clients throughout the project lifecycle?

Set a weekly cadence for all new projects. Be proactive about communicating challenges or bad news. Identify communication steps that are creating bottlenecks in your process.

For example, at UWP, we’ll see a specific step in a project that takes ten back/forth messages to get details and clarity, and those messages might happen over 4-5 days before meaningful work can be done.

So if we can improve our process and communication and cut it to three messages over one business day, we’ve just accelerated a project by 80%, and this has a real and measurable impact on our client’s results and our cash flow (if a project is done faster, clients make money faster, and so do we).

We see this with installing a weekly cadence, too–if it takes 3-4 days to get on our client’s calendar every time we need a meeting, that is pushing out our project calendar (and agency cash flow).

When I was starting out, I didn’t understand this. I had a lot of emotion and baggage–that when a client pushed back a meeting, 9/10, I was thankful–now I realize how much impact that has on our ability to invoice.


5. In the digital age, online reviews and testimonials hold significant weight. What strategies do you recommend for agencies to encourage positive client feedback and leverage it to build trust with potential clients?

Ask your clients to give you reviews. Make it easy. Have the link pulled up. Send it to them, coach them on how to leave a great review. And get video testimonials live when you’re with clients.

Simply saying, “hey–you’ve been a great client, mind if we grab a quick testimonial?” and then ask them a couple of questions on a recorded zoom. Too many agencies make reviews and testimonials hard for clients. Make it easy and you’ll get a lot more.


6. Trust often involves setting and managing client expectations. How can agencies establish realistic expectations and handle situations when clients might have unrealistic demands?

Clients have all the right to have unrealistic demands. It’s the agency that has a responsibility to rightsize what’s possible.

Walk them through what it would take to achieve their demands–heck, with enough resources, just about anything is possible–but what are their constraints? If a client has a budget of X, and what they want requires 10X, then you can show them that.

They can either adjust their desired outcome, or they can adjust their constraints. Now, if an agency across town can get them that desired result at X, that’s on you.

If you’re a partner with your client, on the same side of the table vs adversaries, I think that conversation is productive and strategic. If you’re not on the same side of the table, then you will be pushing boulders uphill.


7. Confidentiality is a key component of trust. How can agencies ensure the security of client information and maintain a high level of confidentiality in their operations?

Adhering to best practices around password and document sharing. Have a DPA (data processing agreement) with your clients so they understand how you handle data and security. An off-the-cuff estimate is that 80-90% of agencies have solid exposure here that they underestimate.

I’d also recommend that agencies ensure themselves properly if they get hit by something. For example, some agencies keep all client passwords in a Google Doc that is extraordinarily easy to copy/paste and transport with zero security trail.


8. Building trust sometimes involves admitting mistakes. How can agencies effectively handle and recover from errors without compromising client trust?

I’ve found that admitting to mistakes and working with clients on a proactive resolution plan can build more long-term trust than what is lost in the short term. People aren’t perfect–you will make mistakes (and likely many of them) with clients.

Mistakes are different than poor outcomes. For instance, there’s a big difference between running a campaign that doesn’t perform and running a poorly performing campaign unchecked. Our ad agency fails every month–if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be the right agency.

But I also expect them to learn from their failures and ensure we’re not failing through incompetence. I think that’s the difference between mistakes and lessons. If we’re not learning, then it’s a mistake and net negative. If we are learning, then it’s really an investment and not a mistake at all.


9. Client education is essential. How can agencies proactively educate their clients about industry nuances and processes to foster a deeper level of trust?

Teach your clients to be great clients. Cover expectations in sales, in onboarding, and your regular cadences. Write a “rockstar clients” doc that walks your clients through precisely what you need of them.

Too many agencies expect their clients to read their minds. For example, I’ll be on a coaching call where an agency owner will give me five grievances about things their client has done… and I’ll ask, “Have you ever told them to do things differently?” and the response will be something like, “Not really… I mean, shouldn’t they know better?” Of course not.

Clients only do what we do sometimes. A client might only rebrand or build a website every 3-5 years. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t take shortcuts.


10. Trust extends beyond the completion of a project. What strategies can agencies implement to foster long-term relationships with clients and become a trusted partner rather than a one-time service provider?

Clients stop being clients when they can’t envision a future with you. Start seeding a 3-5 year client vision from your first engagement. Meet their eye-level needs, but paint a high-level view that gives them a future with you.


11. In the age of remote work, face-to-face interactions are limited. How can agencies establish a personal connection with clients in a virtual environment to enhance trust?

Zoom can be incredible–invest in a good camera and microphone. Instead of pigeonholing into a single platform, lean into the strengths of various communication platforms. SMS, for example, is very powerful at connecting more deeply with people. When an agency I work with sends me an occasional text, I know it must be important.

On the other hand, it’s really easy to diminish that channel by barraging me with worthless reminders and hassles. And don’t underestimate the power of in-person. These days, with bottom-dollar airlines and hotel points, don’t be scared to jump on a plane occasionally to get face time. Showing your client you can “be there when needed” can build a decade of trust.


12. Trust is closely tied to delivering results. What approaches do you recommend for agencies to consistently deliver high-quality work that aligns with client expectations?

Start by knowing what results your clients want–and obsess about getting them. And be willing to burn boats or kill sacred cows or whatever your preferred metaphor is. If your clients need leads–and you build websites–be willing to change your process or deliverables to serve your clients’ goals better. If you spend six months building a website and instead you could spend two weeks building something fast and then 5.5 months driving traffic that will drive leads, then push to the traffic strategy.


13. Transparent pricing is a factor in client trust. How can agencies ensure transparent and fair pricing practices while staying competitive in the market?

While I don’t disagree with the statement made in the question, I don’t think transparency or fairness are clients’ top concerns.

Clients want results. In the absence of results or the trust/belief they can get results, then they will squabble over price and transparency. David Ogilvy has a good quote on this: “Clients who haggle over their agency’s compensation are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Instead of trying to shave a few measly cents off the agency’s fifteen per cent, they should concentrate on getting more sales results from the eighty-five per cent they spend on time and space.

That is where the leverage is. No manufacturer ever got rich by underpaying his agency. Pay peanuts and you get monkeys.”


14. In the competitive agency landscape, how can agencies differentiate themselves in terms of trustworthiness, and what role does a strong company culture play in building trust with clients?

Specialization, period. Solve a unique challenge in the marketplace that is in demand and perennial. There will always be a market for people who can help a business generate more leads and customers in a very specific and measurable way on a channel.

There will always be demand for agencies that can optimize traffic and drive more conversions or higher cart values. Or agencies that can manage multi-million dollar launches. Find a place where people make money, a current at your back, a starving crowd (as Alex Hormozi says), and you’ll never go hungry.


15. How do you advise agencies to handle situations where clients express concerns or doubts about the project, and what steps can be taken to reassure clients and rebuild trust?

Is the project in the client’s best interest? If a client is doubting a project or campaign, then I would look at what happened pre-sale. What did we uncover in Discovery? Did we shortcut? Do we need an opportunity to reset our goals and objectives?

Did new information arrive that has a material impact on our ability to deliver results? Don’t drive a client off a cliff just because you have a scope of work and contract. I’m not saying you have any obligation to let a client out of a financial agreement–but can you allocate those resources in a way that better benefits their ideal outcomes?

This goes back to client communication and ensuring you’re on the same page and rowing in the same direction. Results are important, but so is having a great relationship. And in these situations, you can lean on your relationship to get you through a results pivot.


16. Would you advise agencies to participate in partnership programs, and do you believe that joining a partnership program with a renowned brand can enhance their legitimacy and build trust with clients?

Of course. However, many partnership programs are just channel sales rather than actual partnership programs. My first web agency used to get hit up by countless white-label SEO firms that promised they could offer us a ton of website clients and that we should send SEO to them.

It turns out they made that promise to 1000s web design firms, and it was just a trojan horse to get their hands into the agency’s pie of clients. They would have done better from a brand standpoint to position the opportunity as an affiliate relationship vs. a partner program since they had no real intention (or ability) to reciprocate at the scale they promised.

My first agency made our name by being a top-performing partner within a specific tech stack. The partner program drove thousands of leads, hundreds of clients, and seven+ figures in business to our agency.

So yeah, I am a big fan. Become a top-performing partner and also sign up for relevant affiliate programs with products you believe in. Just do your research and vet opportunities to make sure they’re not one-sided, and you’re getting value for your efforts above and beyond what you’d get if you went solo.

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17. In addition to yourself, are there any other agency coaches you would recommend we reach out to for an interview?

Jason Swenk, Greg Hickman, Ryan Deiss, and Cole Gordon.


18. In conclusion, drawing from your coaching experience, what practical advice would you offer agencies seeking to navigate and effectively address challenges in building trust with their clients?

Operate like a pro. Show up prepared. Be direct and transparent. Add more value than you take. Teach and educate your clients. Get back to people quickly. Do what you say you’re going to do. Deliver on time and on budget. Invest in yourself–get outside help and mentorship. While success is never guaranteed, do all that, and you’ll stack the deck in your favor.

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Abdul Rehman

Abdul is a tech-savvy, coffee-fueled, and creatively driven marketer who loves keeping up with the latest software updates and tech gadgets. He's also a skilled technical writer who can explain complex concepts simply for a broad audience. Abdul enjoys sharing his knowledge of the Cloud industry through user manuals, documentation, and blog posts.

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