The COVID-19 crisis will challenge us in ways we could never have anticipated. But so far, smaller ad agencies are reporting they have been only moderately impacted so far. That said, many small agencies are worried about maintaining client relationships during the crisis.
Taking Advantage of More Casual Communications
In the first of our #GoodAdvice video interviews with Second Wind members, ABC Creative Group, Syracuse, NY, reported they have been assisting clients with COVID-19 messaging. CEO/Creative Director Travis Bort told Second Wind no other budget cuts have happened so far.
Bort made the excellent point that connecting with clients who are also working from home has actually built greater agency-client intimacy. How we assist clients now could actually build stronger bonds for when we all emerge from the other end of the crisis.
Calm positivity may be the best way to approach the crisis. Bort says he has received positive messages from prospects who reached out because they saw some fun social media posts by the agency since they shifted to a remote work model. He expects they may be able to leverage those positive contacts into future new business. Make sure you stay creative and add contacts to your new business pipeline to be activated as soon as you see signs the crisis is waning.
People—our customers and audiences—are operating at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy or needs. We’re focused on essential physiological needs (food, water, shelter, rest), and on safety and security. Major brands have recognized this and are actively focused on helping people get through a crisis unprecedented in living memory. The same needs are driving your clients’ actions right now. Be compassionate, patient… and persistent. You can help them through the crisis with calm expertise.
Focus on serving current clients
Your current clients are going through anxious times in which plans are totally upended not just by the virus shutdowns, but by financial stresses unlike any in living memory. Your job is to focus on ways you can help clients now, and but also to start thinking about their emerging stronger after the crisis.
Float some long-term ideas as you speak with clients. Try to avoid immediate talks about financial aspects of your relationship. Smaller clients especially may already be seeking to cut marketing altogether. Be prepared to hear they can’t talk right now, but let them know you are available to chat about their situations moving forward. Make sure they know you are available to kick ideas around, if not now, then when they are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
Lucy Jameson of Uncommon Creative Studio, a British brand consultancy, told Contagious they’ve pivoted to asking three questions in response to brand planning during the coronavirus crisis:
- How can we help now?
- How must brands/companies adapt to survive, or better yet, succeed?
- How can we prepare for what the world will look like when we emerge from all of this?
Future planning is also being extended for well beyond the crisis. It’s not just about what we do for the second quarter, but where we want to be in 12 months and beyond.
Agencies are doing a number of things to respond to clients making reactive or desperate changes to strategic plans, per an RSW-US poll of agencies and marketers in late March 2020. As your agency adapts to altered budgets and the challenges of the abrupt economic shift, try to remember that your clients are facing similar challenges. How you help them could make your relationships stronger as the crisis wanes and business-as-the-new-usual finally appears on the horizon.