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Laura West on How Agencies Can Balance Client Satisfaction Goals with Industry Recognition

Updated on April 5, 2024

10 Min Read
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Our featured expert for today is Laura West, a seasoned veteran with over two decades of experience in the PR and marketing industry.

Certified in Agile and Change Management, Laura brings a wealth of strategic insight and practical wisdom to the table.

Her mission extends beyond mere consultancy; it’s about equipping agency leaders with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive in an ever-evolving market.

In this session, Laura West discusses how agencies can strike a delicate balance between meeting client needs and gaining industry recognition.

Without further ado, let’s welcome Laura West to the conversation…


1. Can you introduce yourself and share your background in coaching agencies?

I am Laura West, and I have had a fairly unique journey into agency mentoring, in that I am not an exited founder, but one that shut my agency down. This means I have a unique journey in the agency world that I believe gives me a valuable perspective as a mentor.

Back in 2012, I founded my own agency with high hopes and ambitious goals, and things went well for the first 6.5 years, with growth and development through a time of real change in the PR world.

However, in 2018, after having my 3rd child, I faced numerous challenges, both personally and professionally, that made me realize I didn’t have a strong support system as a founder. I didn’t have a mentor, advisor, or network to speak of.

This led me to make the decision to close my agency in 2020. But from that experience, I discovered a genuine passion for helping other agency founders navigate their own journeys. Over the past 3.5 years, I’ve built a vast network of founders and experts within the agency ecosystem.

This network has allowed me to access and connect with individuals who need and can offer support, guidance, and valuable insights. Through my connections, I’ve had the privilege of hearing countless stories, sharing experiences, and learning from the successes and failures of others in the industry.

This, I think, has given me a really unique approach to mentoring as I bring my own experiences and the collective wisdom of my awesome network. I understand the unique struggles that agency founders face.


2. How do you guide agencies in balancing their clients’ specific goals with the broader objective of gaining recognition within the industry?

Firstly, I always advise agencies to look at clients’ objectives, challenges, and expectations, as it is important to form a true understanding and relationship with them. Being a partner to clients involves being more than a solution; it involves being an integral part of their team.

At the same time, I encourage agencies to consider their reputation in the industry by ensuring that clients fit into the niche they operate and that their work is representative of current trends and best practices within that niche.

This may involve educating clients on industry trends, recommending innovative strategies, or implementing cutting-edge technologies to help them stand out and improve the agency’s reputation.

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


4. In your coaching sessions, what challenges do you commonly observe when agencies try to align client objectives with the pursuit of industry recognition?

There are varied challenges as the agencies I work with are of varied sizes, verticals, and stages of growth, but there are some common challenges.

Firstly, and probably most commonly, is the distance between client expectations and competitor and industry standards. Clients often have goals or expectations that are not always considered valuable, or their expectations of how to achieve the goals are not in line with actual outcomes.

This requires an education piece and confidence in the agency’s skills to ensure clients understand the importance of aligning their objectives with broader industry trends and benchmarks.

Another challenge is balancing short-term demands with long-term objectives. Agencies often face pressure and expectations to deliver quick wins, which can sometimes conflict with efforts to build a base for longer-term gains.

A lot of the time, it comes down to communication and sticking to the agency’s values, strategies, and reputation.

Clients may hesitate to invest if the strategies are new – they may prefer to stick with familiar tactics or traditional methods.


5. How important is client satisfaction in contributing to an agency’s positive industry reputation, and how do you guide agencies in maintaining this balance?

Client satisfaction is the most important factor for an agency’s positive industry reputation. Not only is it the only way to build trust, which means long-term relationships, but it is also how word-of-mouth referrals happen – one of the biggest new business streams for any agency.

I will also bang on about the significance of viewing client satisfaction as a strategic asset rather than just a transactional outcome; making sure you have a clear, positive client journey is the only way agencies can cultivate a loyal client base that not only continues to work with them but also becomes advocates for their services in the wider industry.

To do this, there are a few factors that I would encourage agencies to adopt. Firstly, agencies should take a really proactive approach to managing client expectations and communication by setting clear goals and objectives, as well as limitations and boundaries from the outset.

Ensure regular updates, give and ask for feedback throughout the projects, and ensure the people and channels used are easy for clients. I also express the need for consistency and specifics.

Agencies should offer the highest standard of work within their remit; in other words, they should not be tempted to stretch the scope or boundaries if the quality or expectations suffer. There are many ways around this, like having recommended or collaborative agency partners.


6. Can you provide examples or strategies for agencies to showcase their industry expertise without compromising client-centric priorities?

Of course. There are many ways agencies can showcase their expertise, and I always explore these with all of my mentees.

Thought Leadership Content: Agencies should produce high-quality content showing their knowledge of their niche is bang on.

There are various ways of doing it, such as blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, and running client webinars. LinkedIn also offers agency leaders a platform to build their own personal brand, which directly relates back to their agency by sharing valuable insights, trends, and best practices within their specific specialty.

A lot of the time, the content produced can be re-purposed, too, to increase engagement.

Speaking Engagements and Workshops: Agency leaders should consider attending existing industry conferences, events, and webinars as speakers or experts. There are many opportunities for them to share their knowledge, showcase their expertise, and network with peers and potential clients. However, selecting the right events is essential. Agency leaders must ask themselves whether their target audience will engage with the event.

Client Success Stories: Following on from the advice to have a great communication and feedback relationship with clients, agencies should always be looking to highlight and showcase successful client projects and collaborations.

This can be done through case studies, testimonials, and client success stories, which can be published on their websites and social sites. By showcasing real-world examples of their agency in action, they can build credibility and trust within the industry.

Partnerships and Collaborations: One thing that I am known for is the push for agencies to forge partnerships with complimentary service providers, industry influencers, or other agencies to enhance their offering, audience, and credibility. Agencies can also use these relationships to run joint webinars, co-authored articles, or industry research reports that can reach a wider audience and have more content.

Free Resources for Clients: All agencies should develop educational resources, such as workshops, training, or templates, for existing and potential clients to help them better understand industry trends, strategies, and best practices. This gives the agency a huge advantage as a leading authority and trusted source of knowledge.


7. How do you help agencies prioritize their efforts to meet client expectations and build a reputation for excellence within their niche?

For this, I always start by helping agencies examine their core skills, core offerings, and niches. By niching down and focusing on what the agency does best, it can deliver exceptional client results while establishing itself as a leader in its field.

By having a clear and defined niche, agencies can set clear objectives that align with client needs and the agency’s overarching goal of building a reputation for excellence within its niche.

The success of being the authority in their chosen niche and having satisfied clients comes down to continuous communication. By maintaining open lines of communication, asking for and giving feedback, and making adjustments as needed, the agency can deliver while building its reputation within the niche.


8. What advice do you provide to agencies regarding proactive communication with clients to align on goals while also showcasing industry leadership?

My advice to agencies is that proactive client communication is essential. Start all relationships with a clear and thorough onboarding process, ensure regular feedback loops, understand client needs, and foster transparency to build a solid customer journey and loyalty.

Also, to ensure trust, always address concerns promptly and act on them. It is also good to share industry insights, tailored recommendations, and guidance based on trends and the client’s needs.

Thought leadership content like blog posts and webinars you send to and invite clients offers a great way of showing knowledge and communication. The other thing agencies rarely do and absolutely should is celebrating achievements and milestones from the agency and tell clients!


9. When there is a potential conflict between a client’s preference and industry best practices, how do you guide agencies in navigating and resolving such situations?

The advice I offer to agencies when it comes to client comms is to drive proactive communication. From the onboarding process, a customer journey should be in place with continuous check-ins and regular feedback loops.

In order to really understand the client’s needs, it is important to offer and make transparency easy. Building loyalty also comes when agencies immediately address concerns and communicate.

When it comes to sharing industry insights, it is important for agencies to offer tailored recommendations and strategic guidance based on trends and the client’s business context and customers.

Thought leadership content such as blog posts and webinars further showcases the agency’s expertise offered via newsletters. It is also really important that agencies celebrate their staff and company achievements and milestones with customers. This really reinforces the agency’s value proposition and enhances its reputation as an industry leader.


10. How do your coaching methods simultaneously address the dual challenge of meeting client goals and building industry recognition?

I think meeting client satisfaction goals and building industry recognition go hand in hand rather than being perceived as conflicting objectives, and I don’t see this as a challenge.

Agencies delivering exceptional results for their clients inherently contribute to their own industry recognition. My coaching focuses on aligning client objectives with broader industry trends and best practices, leveraging data to demonstrate expertise effectively.

I always guide agencies to prioritize client satisfaction, quality work, and transparent communication. I help them not only meet client goals but also establish themselves as leaders in their niche.

Through thought leadership content, strategic partnerships, and showcasing client success stories, agencies can amplify their impact and reputation within the industry.


11. How crucial is online visibility for an agency’s long-term success, and what strategies do you recommend for agencies to stand out in the digital landscape?

Online visibility is critical for an agency’s long-term success. It is a gateway to attract potential clients, establish credibility, and nurture connections. Love it or hate it, LinkedIn is essential to lifting your agency’s profile.

Leadership’s online personal brand is equally important. People buy from people, and a strong personal brand enhances authority and trustworthiness. Leaders should actively build their online presence, engaging with audiences and sharing insights to strengthen the agency’s overall visibility and reputation.

Website SEO is another cornerstone of online visibility. By strategically incorporating keywords and focusing on technical aspects, agencies can improve search engine rankings and drive organic traffic. Webinars, thought leadership pieces, and blogs can also be an effective content strategy, allowing agencies to showcase expertise, engage with audiences, and generate leads.

Repurposing content across different channels increases impact and saves time! All output needs to be consistent; branding and messaging across online platforms, clear communication of the agency’s value proposition, and differentiation factors are essential, too.


12. In the fast-paced digital world, what approaches do you suggest agencies take to stay visible and relevant to their target audience?

Agencies must adopt proactive approaches to remain visible and relevant to their target audience. As I mentioned in the last question, using platforms like LinkedIn and understanding and leveraging SEO are fundamental.

They should embrace content marketing strategies, such as creating high-quality blog posts, videos, and social media content. It is important to use AI tools to stay up-to-date and ensure the content aligns with industry expectations.

Consistent branding and messaging are key to maintaining brand recognition. Now, more than ever, Leadership’s online personal brand is significant; leaders should actively build their online presence, engaging with audiences and sharing insights to strengthen the agency’s overall visibility and reputation.

Finally, helping customers understand and work with new tools and trends is essential for building trust and authority and showcasing expertise.


13. Do you recommend agency owners join partnership programs for increased visibility, and what specific benefits can they expect to gain from such collaborations?

I am a huge advocate for collaborations and partnerships! But I do l talk about the importance of selecting the right partners and understanding the nuances of referrals and referees.

While partnership programs can help you reach a wider audience, it’s crucial to approach them with an element of caution and ensure a solid foundation of relationships and connections with partner agencies.

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14. As an agency coach, what unique perspectives or strategies do you bring to help agencies navigate challenges and succeed, especially when balancing client goals with industry recognition?

My approach is deeply rooted in empathy, experience, and a commitment to guiding founders towards success. With a background as a former agency owner, I understand the journey of building from scratch, navigating challenges, and needing support.

My coaching philosophy revolves around offering guidance tailored to the unique needs and goals of each client. I think that growth comes through many different factors, and success extends beyond getting more clients and industry recognition. There is team development, personal fulfillment, achieving purpose, and settling mindsets.

I also tap into my extensive network and the insights I gain from networking and communicating with lots of founders. I like to connect with people and hopefully provide access to valuable resources. I impress the need to embrace change, innovation, and get comfortable with plans going wrong.


15. Besides yourself, are there any other agency coaches you recommend we contact for an interview?

No.


16. To wrap up, considering your extensive experience, what final pieces of advice do you have for agencies striving to find the right balance between client satisfaction and industry prominence?

Due to my experience, I am launching a platform for agency leaders that offers direct and actionable answers via short-form, on-demand videos, downloadable resources, and connections to agency experts.

The platform was born out of my desire to help more agency founders on a larger scale. The platform is www.agency-wise.co.uk.

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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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