Ten ways to get the most from your clients

My recent post citing ten ways to get the most from your agency stirred up some mixed emotions when discussed on the blog, in Linkedin groups, on Twitter and further afield.

The emphasis was placed on clients knowing what they wanted to achieve from their marketing efforts, providing communicative briefs outlining their requirements, working with and viewing the agency as a collaborative and long term partner. Otherwise, the relationship was doomed to failure.

Whilst I think this is reasonable, I wanted to provide some balance as agencies don’t always do their fair share of relationship nurturing.

The key learning from this tandem blog seems to be in an upfront clarification of roles and responsibilities, the communication and understanding of expectations and the establishment of robust, and reasonable reporting processes.

I’d be interested in your feedback once you’ve had time to review. Here goes:

1. Effort. From the outset, agree the degree of effort to be expended on a pitch, try and build a rapport and then if you win it, don’t try and include the charge in your billings. Unfortunately, agencies need to accept that pitching is still part and parcel of the gig.

2. The team. In pitches, introduce the team that will work on the account, not the agency big hitters who will win it and pass it on. You want to build a long term relationship, rooted in chemistry.

3. Show some management love. But don’t keep all the big hitters away from it either. Show some love when clients come to town. Be interested in meetings, their news and developments, and encourage a review of deliverables and the working relationship at regular intervals.

4. Work strategically if given the remit to. Clients should know what they want and where they want to get to. Agencies can work strategically in terms of integrating tactics and aligning them to commercial goals but too many agencies see their role as defining the business strategy, which in my view shouldn’t be the case.

5. Know when to push. There is often a prioritisation taking place and as long as you are seen to have been doing your job, it can’t be held against you if you are seeking a decision but for whatever reason it isn’t forthcoming.

6. Know when to sell. This means understanding your client’s budgeting cycle and pitching new ideas accordingly. There is simply no point doing it mid year if the budget is set.

7. Accept price negotiation. Budgets for most client marketers have declined if not stayed the same. Accept that your pricing will be scrutinized and be prepared to defend it. Value is one argument but costs should be as transparent and in line with the going rate for the work. If you can’t explain why you are worth £20 or £200 an hour, you probably aren’t.

8. Add value. To build your profile as a trusted adviser, occasionally share interesting or potentially relevant news stories, polls etc you may come across in your work for other clients. Don’t badge it as selling, just as taking a broader business view and taking in stimuli from other sectors.

9. Add more value. Simplify status reports, annual plans and minimise the flow of communication to daily emails or calls if it can help get quick decisions made. Run immersion sessions to help clients get up to speed in particular areas, and support new members of the client team with familiarisation days in the agency.

10. Above all, be aware of other pressures. Agencies, particularly account handlers, need to understand that they only see the thin end of the wedge when it comes to the pressure on a client. We represent a fraction of their responsibilities and sometimes clients aren’t able to respond as quickly as we might like.

Think about how you deal with your suppliers, screen their calls when not convenient and so on. Sometimes it is just part and parcel of effective time management.

Thoughts?

Image: Tecaffect

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10 ways to get the most from your agency

With budgets stripped back significantly in most sectors in 2011, marketing departments increasingly have to achieve more from less.

Companies use creative, digital, PR, event and other specialist agencies to help deliver innovative, lead generating marketing campaigns. But often these working relationships are fractious and doomed to failure because time hasn’t been taken to crystallize expectations, processes and procedures.

If you really want to foster a partner relationship with an agency, you need to create an environment and provide the resource and information to give the relationship the best chance of success.

Selecting and working with an agency doesn't have to be a leap of faith

Borne from experience, here is a top ten countdown of where to focus to drive improved collective performance.

1. Know what you want. Provide a written brief. There is no other way of definitively marshalling your thoughts. If you can’t, you have no right to expect an agency to deliver.

2. Run a pitch only if you have the work to award. Too many companies use the pitch process inappropriately either for self aggrandizement or to generate ideas that the in-house team can then implement. Worse still, pitches are used when the scope of business is not in proportion to the investment on the part of the agency.

3. Value their expertise. Just like you in your chosen marketplace, good agencies have honed their service offering, often have good contacts and have worked to develop enduring third party supply relationships to offer a full service.

4. Respect ‘the going rate’. Consequently, there is a financial value of investing that time to ensure your business is competently and diligently supported. Focusing too much on the price risks your credibility in the negotiation and your reputation in the longer term.

5. Commit. Sign NDAs and contracts and then ‘open up’.  Formalise the working procedure and then forget about them. Host the agency at your offices and lead immersion sessions to bring them up to speed. Few will understand your business and market better than you – despite their lofty claims.

6. Agree deliverables and metrics at the outset. Working towards commonly agreed goals and set objectives makes it easier to measure effectiveness after the event.

7. Nominate ‘go-to’ contacts who are always available to input, feedback comment, recommend and cajole client side contacts to get things to get done.

8. Build socializing time into your relationship. Teams that enjoy downtime together are more likely to work better.

9. Encourage and reward creative thinking.

10. Feedback on performance… and take agency feedback to improve the relationship.

Image: www.euphoriasmoothies.com