How often have you recommended to a client that they conduct research among their own customers to gauge overall satisfaction and uncover what they value about the relationship to your client’s company or brand? You’re astute enough to know that armed with customer satisfaction data, you can more knowledgeably guide that client in everything from customer acquisition to integration of sales and marketing to customer retention. Now, how often have you thought about the need to understand the satisfaction of your agency’s clients? The fact is agencies tend to avoid client satisfaction surveys for two reasons: We’re either afraid to ask the big questions for fear we might hear something we don’t like, or we assume everything is good because they are still with us. Both ways of thinking can lead to missing an opportunity to fine-tune your relationship with your clients, or more importantly heading off an impending disaster. As an agency owner, you shouldn’t be involved in every detail of what’s happening between your clients and your agency. But, that doesn’t mean you should operate within a vacuum either. If you have an established “one-on-one” meeting process in place between you and your direct reports, and those direct reports have the same established with staff members they manage, then you should have a general awareness of what’s happening with clients. Your responsibility is to ensure that the management of client relationships is carried out in a manner consistent with the agency’s core values and service philosophy. There may be periods of time when that’s not happening, resulting in a slow erosion of confidence between the client and the agency. Simple ways to gauge client satisfaction That’s why it’s smart to periodically engage your [...]
Earlier this year I had the honor of serving as the morning keynote speaker for PRGN’s semi-annual member summit in Toronto. My topic was on the five indicators of new business success that I consistently see in the agencies I work with (and, likewise, the corresponding indicators of agencies that stay stuck in a feast-or-famine cycle). One of the indicators is a specialist mindset, as opposed to an “all things to all people” approach. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They tried this specialist agency strategy at his agency and it didn’t work. It had the opposite effect; they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that? (Gulp) Before I tell you how I responded, let me explain that I’m not a specialist agency hardliner. In fact, this time last year, I wrote about this. To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business. Pitching for new business is a big investment. The more specialized your pitch, the more efficient your investment. That’s because: Generalists seek out clients; specialists are more likely to be sought Generalists differentiate based on price; specialists can afford to charge a premium Generalists will always be tempted to reinvent themselves to suit the nature of the prospect; specialists find it easier to home in on a consistent message that’s effective for the right audience But I also don’t see it as a stark choice. In my piece, I referred to the proverb about the shoemaker’s children who wear no shoes. This is a favorite to describe agencies that can’t seem to take their own advice when it [...]
I learned the most important lesson about new business pitching from an unlikely source for a man in my business: record producer Jimmy Iovine. In 2013 I was a proud dad sitting in the audience at the University of Southern California’s commencement ceremony. The keynote speaker was famous music producer and co-founder of Beats headphones, Jimmy Iovine. He told an unforgettable story that I’ve applied to sales conversations ever since. As I remember it, Jimmy described his start as a sound engineer working on an early Bruce Springsteen album. After working on Born to Run with producer Jon Landau, he was asked to work on the follow up album, Darkness On the Edge of Town. He was tasked to find the right drum beat for a song, and it wasn’t an easy job. After spending six weeks working around the clock trying to get the sound that Bruce had in his head actualized with instruments, Jimmy became frustrated. Bruce wanted a specific sound that he had trouble describing, and Jimmy was failing time after time at delivering what the Boss was looking for. No matter what they tried, it wasn’t working. Bruce kept rejecting the work, which left Jimmy feeling disrespected and on the verge of quitting. When All Seemed Lost, A Pivotal Moment It was then that a pivotal moment took place: Bruce’s manager looked Jimmy straight in the eye and said something to the effect of, “you go back there and say to Bruce ‘I’m here to support you. This is not about me. It’s about the album.’ You will have a friend for the rest of your life.” Jimmy swallowed his pride and did just that. In the end, Jimmy never nailed [...]
Creative agencies such as marketing firms, website developers, and advertising and design groups can often be reluctant to approach the issues of confidentiality and intellectual property rights ownership with prospective business clients. Those who set agency policies may feel that asking for a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is too off-putting during business development discussions – as if bringing up such matters might sully the burgeoning trust that is being established in the working relationship and create an uncomfortable tension. Others feel that such agreements aren’t actually enforceable (yes, they are), or that a prospective client will always refuse to sign them (some will sign, some won’t). While some of these concerns are well founded, there are good reasons why creative agencies should still pursue a nondisclosure agreement. Let’s take a look at three of those reasons, below. Three Reasons Your Agency Should Utilize a Nondisclosure Agreement First, a nondisclosure agreement sends the professional message that the Agency respects the confidentiality of all parties involved. Integrity always makes a company shine brighter, don’t you think? How can an NDA protect everyone? Simply make the confidentiality provisions mutual so that both the client and the Agency are protected. In this way, the Agency’s client feels valued and is also subconsciously reminded that he or she is working in a private relationship. Secondly, an NDA offers a convenient opportunity to address rights ownership issues in writing prior to a pitch, proposal, or a new business discussion. Many agencies worry about protecting their intellectual property during the new business process as well. A mutual nondisclosure agreement can include helpful language about the Agency’s rights to the concepts and work it discloses, prior to actual engagement by the client. Thirdly, a [...]
Looking for the silver bullet for agency new business efforts? I could sell a great new business person to agency owners all day long. They don't just want one -- they hunger for one. In fact, they're so hungry for that killer salesperson that they'll gladly pay a premium salary and perks to 8-10 losers before they find someone who can even cover their own salary. And that's just for the privilege of breaking even. Hardly a home run in the agency new business efforts World Series. In a recent new Agency-Marketer Business Report from RSW/US, 80 percent of agency respondents said the tenure of their new business director was two years or less. And (my editorial, not the study's) it was a very frustrating and expensive 2 years at that. Adweek covered the story and concurred with the study's findings. They had quotes from some of the bog box agencies and even a client or two who said agency new business people didn't get their business issues. I know it's a different world when you're JWT or Saatchi, but in the world of most privately owned agencies -- agency owners have two choices: You can gamble on finding/hiring someone who has incredible sales skills AND can talk marketing/business problems with prospects You can get over yourself and accept what you know but don't want to hear. The best new business person in your agency is you. I can't tell you how many times I have been in a conversation with a new business agency owner who said "for XYZ reason, I had to step into the new business role and we are killing it! We've got 5 proposals out and we've already increased AGI 20% over last year." The reality [...]
Is there such a thing as a loyal client? I think we all know a few. But the truth is, most agencies hang onto a client for 3-5 years and then they're looking around. If we're really honest with ourselves -- some of the blame for that disenchantment sits at our feet. When we're chasing a new piece of business, we are on our first date behavior. We listen intently, respond instantaneously and we go out of way to be smart, witty and a snappy dresser. We wine and dine them, literally and figuratively and no one matters more. But once the deal is done... over time, we get a little sloppy. It doesn't matter if the work you're doing for them is digital, traditional or a blend. We don't wine or dine very often anymore. I know, I know -- you're busy doing the work and they should know that you still love them because you're busting a hump for them. There's more to keeping your clients loyal than just working hard. Agency Post asked me to explore this topic and offer up some advice on how to nurture your accounts so at the end of the day you can earn a great profit and a loyal client. Check out my article How to Stop Your Clients from Shopping Around. I'd love to get your take on this topic.