Every year hundreds of posts are written about the growing mismatch between goals of agencies and their clients. Both clients and agencies seem to be trying to adapt and some are now better than others at understanding the points of disconnect.

In my experience, when I was on the agency side and then as a client, I found two types of relationships that clients had with their digital agencies.

The type of clients that behaved like a goalie and those that behaved like a coach.


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As an example, goal keepers in a soccer game scrutinize every move made by the players not on their team. They block and deflect every attempt to score.

Similarly, some clients will take the position of a goalie and scrutinize, question and doubt every proposal made by the agency. Usually, there is some time given to the agency to prepare a proposal to solve the current ask from the client. During this time, the goalie doesn’t want to reveal too much before seeing the proposal. Additionally, the agency is reluctant to ask, since it doesn’t want to seem needy.

Comparing this behaviour to the Coaches, we see the contrast clearly.


The coaches are collaborative. They don’t wait for the players to go and start playing, only to commence the scrutiny. Coaches start the process at the drawing board. They say, “here is what we know. Tell us what your experts suggest and we can together shape that for us”.

It’s common for clients to have multiple agencies. And in that situation, the coach is even more effective as the communication between multiple agencies becomes necessary. A coach understands that the only when everyone plays together as one team, will they succeed.

Whereas, the Goalie is more concerned with challenging the agencies with producing solutions that simply cannot be conjured without the inputs of information internal to the client’s business. This results in frustrations on both sides.

Typically, the goalie behaviour is common amongst clients that internally have non-trusting and critical management. The clients that have transparent and open cultures are not shy to take on the role of the coach and guide the solution themselves.

To get the most of the relationship with agencies, it is crucial to have a level of trust in the communication, confidentiality and competence on both sides.

This may seem like a distant dream for some, while others have understood and are making the partnership work to the advantage of both sides.




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