At the recent Mirren New Business Conference in New York, Laurie Coots, CMO at TBWA\Chiat\Day, shared a new-business truism that our agency lives by: "There is no such thing as a small project from a big brand."
As agencies are all too eager to point out to clients, the investment required to create awareness, generate a prospect and, ultimately, convert a customer is huge. Therefore, it is paramount that we maximize the value of each customer relationship in terms of opportunities, referrals and, yes, billings.
That said, it's funny how few agencies actually practice what they preach. In the spirit of looking at new business with a fresh set of eyes, here are three reminders for how your agency can "get back to basics" to maximize the potential of every client engagement.
First, there is no such thing as "business-to-business." Let's face facts; we're a business-to-business industry, but as human beings, there really is no such thing as "b-to-b." No matter the category or client we're pursuing, we're marketing to people who talk about last night's reality TV show, struggle with buying the cool new gadget while managing their personal budget, and wonder if they're doing a good job raising their children.
As such, it is vital that agencies dig deep and create emotional connections. Identify each client's real needs and wants. Bring the right people to the engagement and right solutions to the table. Bottom line, build meaningful relationships that solve the deepest problems for clients and their brands.
Like it or not, the business world is an arena in which logic seldom prevails (recall the old aphorism: "The right agency seldom wins the pitch"). Even when we believe we're making decisions for rational reasons (clients and agencies alike), there's plenty of emotion at play. Recognize this. Build strategies from this.
Second, remember to deliver on your agency's own brand promise. As an industry, we're famous for our commoditized brand positions (to wit: the mighty trio of big ideas, collaboration and results), but regardless of what you're offering, don't forget about it after you've won the first project.
One of our clients recently put it best (referring to an agency with which they no longer work): "The day after they won a project from us, not only did we get a new team assigned to the business, but it was as if the new team didn't get the memo on what was promised during the pitch."
Agencies are brands. We make promises. In short, no matter the size of the client, make sure you keep them. If your agency is all about big ideas, make sure that you and your teams are overwhelming your new clients with them. If results are your gig, then make sure that you're asking the right questions, building the right tracking mechanisms and chasing optimization at every aperture. Put yourselves in a client's shoes: "You made me all of these promises. Now live up to them. Exceed them. Earn not just your paycheck, but your next project as well."
Finally, don't follow -- lead. We agency folks often have a myopic perspective. We forget another cold reality: that for most of our clients, we are a very small part of their job, perspective and to-do list.
Think of the pain of the modern client: more accountability and scrutiny than ever before; more blame and finger pointing; more change, fear and, well, you get the idea.
By now, we've all heard IBM's prediction, cited by many of the panelists at Mirren, that the next five years will hold more change for the advertising industry than the previous 50 did. What does this mean for your clients? Their consumers? Their brands? What can you do to proactively make your clients' lives easier? How can your agency help them anticipate and address problems before they even have them? How can you truly help them grow their business? (Which, by the way, is the best way to grow your own business with them.) What is the assignment they should be giving you that they haven't yet identified themselves?
At the end of the day, we're all buyers. And we choose to buy from businesses and brands that make us feel good, who "get" us, who make our lives easier, make us happier and more successful. Albert Einstein said, "Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones, either." To reframe this from a client's perspective: "Any agency that doesn't make the most of a small opportunity probably cannot be trusted with a large one, either."
Curt Hanke is principal, account director at Shine Advertising. He can be reached at email@example.com.