Client Relations in a Real-Time World


What matters to clients in an increasingly commoditized world, one in which agencies have to make real-time decisions? Creativity. Results. Listening to and offering clients a new form of leadership.

Only a few short years ago, clients managed their P&Ls to an annual report. Now, clients need to see that their agencies are adding value every day. This means agencies are only as good as the last things they've done.

Unfortunately, agencies have allowed themselves to become commodities. But clients -- and the times -- call for new models and ways of thinking. The agency business, for one, has to more effectively address client needs. Everybody talks about how procurement is more prevalent, for example, and that its sole purpose is to drive down costs. Well, to have the kind of impact we need on clients, both sides need to change the dialog.

What I'm hearing matters most to clients is optimization. This includes optimization of resources, whether human or financial; optimization of processes so they're done in shorter periods of time; optimization of the agency's product offering (our creative work and innovations); and, increasingly important -- and rightfully demanding -- the optimization of results.

Our collective goal should be to change the dialog from a cost-centered perspective to a performance-based one. Would a client be willing to pay more to get greater results? The answer should, of course, be yes.

Here, changes that need to be made:

1. Break down the silos and focus on results: Clients and agencies are not having the right kinds of discussions because silos still exist among procurement, marketing and finance. Instead, they should be having one conversation about how to get the greatest value and the greatest results from their investment.
Historically, one reason for not having these all-important talks about results is there wasn't always the appropriate data insights and metrics on the back-end. Now, thanks to advances in technology, these sorts of conversations should, and can, become second nature. And in changing the dialog from cost to optimization, clients will change their view of commodity to value.

2. Elevating our game: On the agency side, we should structure our organization in a way that reflects both what's important to our clients and the reality of how they're organized. These days, more marketers are looking for consultative services that deal with strategy, platforms and new revenue streams. Many are demanding their marketing partner deliver far more than creative. They're looking to them for innovation and to understand their consumers in a holistic environment that mirrors the way they live.

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