We’re now well into Q2 of 2022. Longer days, warmer weather, COVID subsiding (in the UK at least), travel plans surviving to fruition and, for the fortunate, fun is back on the agenda.

Agreed, the world view is not exactly pretty, and we still have an intergalactically shaming government, but it struck me on Sunday’s Hampstead Heath walk that spring has sprung.

As hybrid working establishes itself for many, with the week divided between a home office and a central hub, this seasonal burst of energy can be put to good use.

In my role as a business relationship consultant, I frequently hear that, over the past two years, personal connections between clients and agencies have become strained, more remote.

Indeed, I was thanked over breakfast for reminding a senior marketer to visit her agency CEO, face to face, a behaviour that previously would have been instinctive.

To this point, some do question whether investment in commercial alliances is worth the endeavour anymore. Have relationship dynamics, particularly for clients, diminished irrevocably to transactional value judgements? Can there ever be a Return on Relationships?

To this I say, if you want to get the best from your agency teams (or your clients), you need to invest in them – quality, quantity, care, attention. And increasingly, the output we facilitate from business associates is a monitored metric, with potentially damaging exposure for underperformance.

Therefore, actively maintaining, nurturing, and building key work relationships is crucial.

My top three tips for maximising client/agency engagement and to help drive growth in a post-pandemic environment are:

  1. Don’t let the rhythm of work and new ways of working dictate the rhythm of a relationship. Evidence suggests that warmth is assessed before competence and carries more weight
  2. Make sure you know each other personally as well as professionally. Create a full picture of your collaborators’ needs and respect them
  3. Do what you say you are going to do, to the letter, and always exceed expectations. Promises made, promises kept and proactivity

And, of course, ensure that you regularly appraise your important business relationships with help from an experienced, independent third party. The most enlightened organisations are always open to constructive advice that enables continuous improvement.

Fully functioning business relationships are fundamental to commercial outcomes. Great outcomes come from shared commitment. And true commitment comes from mutual investment.