Is there any more monumental moment in the life of business owners and managers than when they realize they don’t have to take every client that crosses their path? It’s liberating; they can be choosy, now able to turn down business whose budget is tiny but whose expectations are sky-high (and believe us — those two characteristics often go hand in hand).

The way to figure out whether a potential client is the right fit for your agency is by asking the right questions in your first conversation with the contact. Of course you’ll want to get a sense of the scope and the actual work they need done by an agency, but there are questions and corresponding answers that can provide an idea of what the client would be like to work with (for better or for worse).

  • What’s the company philosophy? The answer to this question will illuminate two things. The first? The pure fact of whether the company has their act together enough to articulate their company’s philosophy. If they can articulate it, they’ve done the legwork to dig into who they are as a brand. The second thing you’ll learn is the content of that company philosophy and whether it aligns with your own brand’s.
  • What kind of relationships are you looking to build with a partner agency? This could speak to the length of contract and whether they’re looking for a long- or short-term partner. But it also could indicate whether they want to build a partnership allowing for collaboration and honest dialogue, or if they’re mostly looking for someone to execute on their own vision. Either can be fine depending on what your agency is looking for, but it’s good to know up front.
  • What goals do you have for this campaign or partnership? Of course you’ll want to have a sense of the potential client’s goals before you engage with them so you know what’s realistic, who to assign to the project, etc. But knowing the client’s goals can also be a window into the type of client they’ll be. If they’re adamant about getting a placement in the New York Times in the first month, they may require a strong account lead who can manage expectations and educate them on just how time-consuming and much work a NYT story can be.
  • What budget do you have in mind for this scope of work? A client can be completely aligned culturally, can have a realistic sense of what their agency can accomplish, and can be open to creative ideas and executions. None of it matters if they don’t have a budget to support it. Of course you can be flexible and creative in budgeting, if you really are interested in working with a client, but if there’s virtually no way your agency will make any profit, it’s time to consider passing on the business. Always leave the door open and be straightforward with the potential client; we’ve found that brands with small budgets and big dreams are typically fairly understanding of agencies in this situation.

The key to these conversations are knowing what your agency wants and needs out of a client relationship, and seeing where the potential client aligns. It’s all in your hands!