It’s a good question: most agencies have an account mix that is far from ideal. Frequently, a single account controls the life of any given agency—a “gorilla,” if you will.
Or, we see a bunch of “monkey” accounts, each one contributing minimal amounts of agency gross income (AGI), but demanding more than their fair share of account service and creative time. Gorillas, of course, do anything they want, per the old joke: “Where does a 500 lb. gorilla (client) sit?”
The best account mix, following the analogy above, would be for an agency not to have a single, massive gorilla account—and certainly not to subsist on monkey accounts—but rather to have a number of “orangutans” as clients, each substantial enough to make it worthwhile for the agency to spend good quality time on them, but none too big and none too small.
In your dreams, right?
We were fortunate enough in our agency careers to do a fair amount of business with The Rouse Company. They were at that time leading developers of regional shopping malls, but afterward moved to development of whole cities (Columbia, Maryland) and “festival” shopping experiences such as Faneuil Hall in Boston, Harbor Place in Baltimore and South Street Seaport in New York City.
When The Rouse Company began to develop a shopping mall, they didn’t just place ads in Shopping Center World looking for tenants, or wait for potential tenants to contact them. That, of course, would have brought every shoe retailer in the world. This is analogous to an agency working only with “monkey” accounts. Rather, as the mall was being designed, the leasing professionals at Rouse would ideally plan the mall so that there was a perfect mix of stores… you know, a major department store here, an American Eagle here, the food court there, etc. Then they went out and brought those ideal tenants into the mall. This planning not only went a long way toward satisfying consumers, but also made the malls more efficient and profitable.
So it should be with your agency. You should always strive to mix—and remix—your clients so that there is a high amount of agency satisfaction, efficiency and profit.
Isn’t it nice to think about your business as it relates to what is good for you and not necessarily what is good for everyone else (clients, vendors, etc.)? A certain amount of selfishness is needed to succeed in business today.
Following are some tips on client mix and agency self-satisfaction.
1. First, you can’t get close to an ideal client mix unless you have a highly proactive new business effort. Remember, for every account that leaves, one or more have to come on board. No new business program, no new accounts.
2. Have no single account that contributes more than 25 percent of your AGI.
3. Have no account, other than project accounts where you feel there is future potential for expansion, contributing less than 5 percent of your AGI. In other words, resign all accounts contributing less than 5 percent of total AGI and give you work you don’t consider worth the effort.
4. If you have a gorilla account (more than 25 percent of your AGI), you must take immediate corrective action. No, we are not going to suggest that you resign an account! You need the gorilla’s money more than breath itself. But try to understand the gorilla mentality. They come into your agency, wreak havoc for several years, then abruptly leave. When gorillas go, they leave their agencies devastated for some time. Our suggestion is not to resign the gorilla, but rather to understand the rules of engagement and use the gorilla as they use you.
The best response to having a gorilla client is to get another one as quickly as possible to diffuse the potential impact of the lone gorilla. This may sound a little Pollyanna-ish, but trust us—the leverage and reputation you build by having one gorilla can be put to great advantage in soliciting other ones. In fact, having one gorilla and working hard to get another is a golden opportunity to grow your agency several levels in one bounce.
You must work constantly to refine the mix of accounts in your agency. There is an ideal mix that will allow you to have satisfaction and profits. Your job is to find that ideal mix.
See also: Surrounded by Gorillas