First impressions matter. The way you conduct yourself at the beginning of a relationship sets the tone for the rest of it. What may seem like a small action during the initial, starting phases of a new business relationship can have a massive impact on the final result of the project. The first ninety days are critical to secure your success in any job. 

The Key to Success on Any New Project

Have you ever heard the phrase, "underpromise, and overdeliver?" It's a common saying used throughout a variety of different businesses and industries. It's an excellent strategy to employ within the first ninety days when you take on a new project or client as a service provider.

It's tempting to overpromise on a project. Closing a sale or deal is a tough business, and it's easy for someone to make promises they can't necessarily keep. Telling a new client that you can do everything they want and then some takes little effort - just speaking. But letting your new client know that you can't do something they want takes honesty, and it's a brave move.

In an environment where many salespersons overpromise and are "yes-men/women," honesty is refreshing, valuable currency. Working as an agency or service provider is still a relationship business, and people are more likely to trust service providers who are honest with them at the start of the relationship. Plus, overpromising forces you into a situation that can end up either letting your client down or forcing you to expend precious resources and energy to do more than what's possible with the project.

When you underpromise, you're honest. You're setting the client up for realistic expectations, while also protecting your bottom line and your team members from frustration and possible burnout. Under Promising also makes it easier for you and your team to overdeliver, which clients will love.

However, clients are really the key to making this strategy work so that it can benefit everyone involved. Clients can have unrealistic expectations about what service providers and agencies can do. It's essential that they don't allow "yes-men/women" to bamboozle them with unrealistic promises that are impossible to keep and achieve. The agency partner who outlines the project's results in practical terms, and who is honest about their skills, what those skills can achieve, and when they can meet deadlines is someone worth doing business with. Realistic promises also enable the agency to come in under budget, before a critical deadline, or able to achieve slightly better results for clients than initially thought possible.

For the agency, it's critical that at the beginning of any new relationship, they underpromise and overdeliver to set the tone for one built on trust and honesty. We promise you this.


Your agency just won an important new business pitch, and everyone's fired up! But then you run into what seems to have become the norm after 18-24 months. The client calls and informs you they decided to conduct a review. You feel totally blind-sided. What might have happened? How did you lose touch? And most importantly what "undermined the trust factor" that won the business? After all, chemistry and trust are most often cited as the key factors in victories.

Let's see what could have caused this:

  • Did you on-board the client properly?

  • Was there an open, honest  offsite meeting that you arranged and paid for? Did you continue these offsite meetings?

  • Did you both share in the CEO's mandate for success over the first two years?

  • Did you revisit the quality of service over this period? Honestly and openly.

  • And, did you build a continuity team that proactively provided business building ideas in marketing, digital and analytics? Every month, every quarter.

That said, proof of performance is your greatest ally today. Here are some keys to keep it trending upward:

  1. Outstanding Creativity: Across key connection points, with all members of your team owning them.

  2. Relationship Building: All members charged with building relationships with their counterparts.

  3. Budgeting & ROI: Pay closer attention to your compensation agreement and revisit it with an open mind. You don't want your profitability to be marginalized, but you do want your client openly engaged with budget concerns.

All of this points towards the major issues that are an impediment these days: Client/Agency trust, and most recently transparency, have eroded. Your focus should be to work everyday to make these non-issues. Breathe some life into the relationship every chance you get. And last, but certainly not least, "Love your clients, or someone else will".  

The end.