Many agencies run afoul of clients by failing to put the client at the center of agency interactions. The most successful agency-client relationships reflect a similar approach to working together. Does your agency focus on the client? Read these techniques and compare your own service standards.
Work with the people at the top. Agencies should avoid being stuck with middle management types. Always try to build relationships with the decision-makers in client organizations. Dealing at the top helps you steer clear of bureaucratic delays and middle-management politicking. It also keeps your agency “tight” with the people who decide which agency they will be working with next year!
Be a good listener. Clients today want to work with agencies that understand client problems and can help them take advantage of opportunities. Too many agencies try to sell things to clients. They also treat clients like they know nothing about their own business, and their marketing goals. Listen to what clients have to say, and respect their knowledge and perceptions. That way, your agency can serve clients what they want and need. Be open to client ideas and suggestions, and work to guide them to the correct solutions.
Just Do It… Demonstrate that your firm will always deliver, on time and on budget—and deliver in a way that exceeds client expectations. Complete the job ahead of deadline, provide over-runs at no cost, or deliver better-than-requested results. Keep your promises.
Don’t wait for direction. Agencies that proactively propose strategies to help clients boost sales, move products, gain shelf space or otherwise increase profitability are true innovators. Clients crave innovation that helps them make money or reduce costs. Look constantly for ways to improve your clients’ situations. If you don’t generate ideas, they may look for an agency that will.
Communicate regularly. Don’t be a pest, but you must show your face to do good account service… and not just your face. In addition to regular planning and scheduling meetings, send an e-zine, email short memos about industry news, and always celebrate special occasions or events, like the CEO’s birthday or a client division winning an award.
Be their prop and support. Clients like to know who is loyal and can be depended upon to come through when the chips are down. Be a friend and supporter, not just a service provider. This may mean sometimes doing things for the client that you won’t financially profit from. But profit comes in many forms. Take care of the client and the client will take care of your agency with more work and increased respect.
Give the client a change of scene. Make sure that clients feel comfortable in the agency’s workspace. Sometimes, escaping from the corporate environment helps clients gain a new perspective, and be more open to new ideas.
Use team service. Introduce clients to the entire strategic team—not just account service personnel, but planning, PR, media, new media, creative, production and administrative folks. If the client is comfortable dealing with multiple agency people, they are less likely to take issue if you need to shuffle team members, and much less likely to leave if there is a change. Bond them with the agency as a whole, not with one account service person.
Make good on your errors. When your agency commits an error, misses a deadline or otherwise screws up, do not compound the problem by trying to slide it by under the client’s radar. Step up and play George Washington. Then make it right, even if you have to eat the cost. You want to reconfirm that the client can trust and rely on your agency as quickly as possible.
A good relationship involves more than project fulfillment. Start practicing client-centered agency service. Your clients will become more closely attached to your agency, and your reputation for being an agency that “gets it” will grow and spread.
Register now for Account Executive College and refresh your AE skills!