I recently read a really interesting blog article by Marketing Magazine entitled “the five rules of successful client-agency relationships”, and thought that it was a good opportunity to write an article that focuses on the challenges that Sleeping Giant Media faces as a successful growing agency, as opposed to my usual posts that focus on the industry as a whole.
I have taken the headings from the article mentioned and have added my own commentary regarding some of the challenges we have faced in order to try and build successful client relationships, and, ultimately, a successful agency.
Be open to change
Totally agree with this one. The rate of change is our biggest opportunity and it is essentially what has made us so successful from a dining room start up to a team of over 30 in less than 6 years. The winners in this space are those who can adapt, or even better: predict the changes and create processes, systems and solutions to help meet the needs of the advertisers. Saying “we have always done it this way” is a sure fire way to failure. Success is change. Not always easy, but an essential ingredient.
Focus on clarity
This is a must! Particularly within the digital space, there is the opportunity for bad intentions – such as mis-selling and misleading people into thinking they know nothing and that their involvement is unnecessary. The number of clients we have met who start the conversation with “we have been burned in the past” is frightening, and also very frustrating on our part. We have to reassure them we are different, and it isn’t until they have worked with us for a month or so that they understand this and have our trust. Clarity is essential these days, because approaching it any other way is a short term mentality that may get you clients but not lasting relationships.
Bring the value back into creativity
Again another one I agree with, and something we have addressed in a number of ways within the business. Firstly, after attending a conference in Las Vegas (there wasn’t a closer one ok!) back in 2013, we remapped our structure within the business and created a new team called the Digital Creative team. The focus was to bring creative and digital together as we wanted to bring accountability back into creativity.
Latterly, we have been working on our “Performance Branding” proposition. We need to get better at how we communicate this approach to both our clients and potential clients, so what this means is trying to target our customers earlier in the funnel, through more awareness based activity. Then we are mapping that all the way through to transaction, and measuring the impact it has on more performance based marketing. (See, I told you we need to work on our proposition… it certainly needs more clarity!)
Invest in relationships
This is at the heart of what we do so I won’t go into this, but actually I wanted to take the time to discuss another relationship that is important for customer service. The relationship of our account managers. These are the guys who are delivering the customer service, if they aren’t happy it is difficult for them to deliver a great service to the client. As an agency we have to invest in our internal relationships as much as we do our external direct client relationships. Sometimes, this requires a tough decision and actually having to break with clients that are not creating a positive working environment with our account managers. Financially painful in the short term, but ultimately better for the client and for the manager who can then spend their time on other clients and help drive their business forward.
I think this point relates back to embracing change. An agency needs to constantly reinvent itself in order to be cutting edge. Being an average agency is a slippery slope bound for disaster in my opinion; You are either great, or you shouldn’t exist as an agency. We are constantly questioning the approach we take to everything. This is hugely tiring but in our opinion it is the only way to ensure great things are happening.