Finding the Right Fit – The Importance of Client/Agency Culture Alignment

By Kayla Kurtz | @one800kayla | Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing

There has been a lot of travel happening for the team here at Hanapin/PPC Hero, myself included. I was lucky enough this last week to be in Seattle for a few days and while there, visited a current client with our Director of Sales and President. The visit had no set agenda, as we were in the area for another meeting but wanted to stop in for an extra touch base because why not?


The client walked with us to the conference room and we sat down and started talking about what was new for the brand and began digging in to how our team specifically was contributing to those efforts. I often boast about how proud I am to be a part of the Hanapin team, but this client meeting solidified further trust and acknowledgement of our team’s capabilities.


Certainly it can be easy to reason away that the client was being gentler because the three of us on the visit weren’t her actual day-to-day management team; or maybe she is in general a very positive person. We were about to do just that when our contact reiterated that not only does/has she put up with poor vendor relationships in that did/do not give her the same positive experience we are – but she reminded us she came to her current position from an agency that actually offered paid search services.


So not only are we talking to the person who selected us over other vendors (her previous employer included), but she has direct experience with how the client/agency relationship can go from our side of things and still thinks we’re killing it. Exact words – “What your team does makes me look good, and it’s exactly the kind of communication and proactivity we, and other companies, need.”


We let her tell us a bit more about what she liked in our approach and much of it came down to communication. She likes that her Account Manager and Client Services Manager return emails and calls within a reasonable amount of time (we’ve got a 24 hour rule for non-emergencies and apparently 2-3 days to acknowledgement is the typical trend). She doesn’t get the feeling that her team is assigned too many accounts because of those turnaround times (spoiler alert: overloaded account managers do crappy work, it’s just true), in addition to how often we’re bringing her new strategies or tactics we want to implement to push things further up and to the right.


Our team brings those new ideas to the table and we also help prioritize them so the client doesn’t get lost in the woods and can efficiently and effectively explain our strategies and progress to her C-suite. We adjust and are flexible when her internal goals require shifts or if she hasn’t had a chance to review something for us because of her own to-do list (we’re all human, and we know that!).


We still pushed for how we can get better or what we can assist with on a bigger picture-level. We know global attribution and growth is top priority so we’re looking at what we can do on that front.


Jeff Allen asked a great question about what made this particular client pick us before they even had the hands on experience working with our team and as he asked – I noticed a poster on the wall of the conference room that looked incredibly familiar:




The illustration showed something called ‘The Oz Principle’ and it’s something we rolled out as a company-wide initiative at Hanapin about two years ago.


The Oz Principle, at its core, is meant to promote proactive communication and ownership. It is broken into two main buckets of actions: Above the Line or Below the Line. The ‘ATL’ activities are to See It, Own It, Solve It, and then Do It. You can tell in that process that your goal under this principle is to take onus of any problem and find a way to solve it or at least produce solution options. The ‘BTL’ actions are the exact opposite and tend to revolve around doing nothing for one reason or another (i.e. not my job, wait & see, point the finger, etc.).


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why ATL responses are preferred over BTL, and you can even argue that when you read these things they seem to be common sense. That’s not entirely off base but the implementation of that common sense isn’t as commonplace as you might think. Realizing that this particular client subscribed to a similar way of thinking as our team made everything suddenly click.


We are able to do a great job for them and they are able to identify and appreciate that work because we have the same goals:


  •  Seeing how/what can be done
  • Owning the building of possible solutions
  • Solving the problem with the best fit solution
  • Implementing that solution and doing something about the problem.


Becoming aware of the shared culture between our team and the client’s only emphasized what we already knew, which is that long-term client/agency relationships aren’t necessarily the product of hitting PPC goals day in and day out. Success is found when hitting those goals (and especially when you’re not hitting those goals) is met with same-page communication tendencies and proactive approaches to progress.


We came back to the office from that meeting and made certain to let everyone on Team Hanapin know that our training and continued focus on this area of management is what sets us apart from the competition.


How does your team’s culture line up with your clients? Do you find management relationships easier when both sides subscribe to similar cultures or do you think account performance is really the make or break factor? Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with us in the comments section below!