When you talk to clients about what they want from their agency, the answers seem pretty similar—fresh thinking, great ideas, and dedicated senior-level people working on their business. But what else do clients want and think about, but not always say?
Category knowledge and experience
In many cases, clients like to pick an agency based on category experience. “I know they understand fast food, but what do they know about women’s apparel?” Reading research decks and conducting focus groups is key in getting up to speed on a new client. However, category knowledge is crucial in this business. If an agency has created successful campaigns for similar products or categories recently, this can give them an upper hand in understanding a new client’s situation and providing better solutions than another agency with less category experience.
Are they walking the walk or just talking the talk?
Clients really want assurances that their agency is truly doing what they say they are doing. Are they keeping their promises? Are they staying on budget? Are they meeting their deadlines? If the answer is “yes,” clients can breathe a sigh of relief. Knowing that things are getting done and done right—every time—is critical to a long-lasting and successful business relationship.
Are they available whenever they are needed?
Advertising is not a 9 to 5 job. Again, advertising is not a 9 to 5 job. Clients love knowing that their agency is available to them any time. In today’s world of smartphones, laptops, and tablets, accessibility is pretty much instant. Many marketing directors are being pulled in multiple directions and are working longer hours and more often on weekends. They need to know that their agency folks are available for consultation or ideas at a moment’s notice. Most good agency folks understand this and are willing to check in after hours and over the weekend as well. As stated before, branding and marketing communications is not a 9 to 5 job.
Do they care about what you do?
Does the agency really care about the clients’ business? Clients want to know that their agency feels as strongly about their work as they do. Doing great work is one thing, but being passionate about the business is another. Many years ago, we had the honor of working on a campaign for a nationally recognized pediatric hospital. The work we produced was amazing and highly effective. But what we really loved was that we were truly making a difference in the lives of children each and every day. To this day, we still support the organization and are close friends with the hospital’s former marketing team. The bottom line—all clients want to feel that they are your favorite client and that you are committed to their cause and purpose.
Can they provide sound advice and leadership?
Clients love agency professionals who can think and do. Marketing directors don’t want to mandate the direction of a new campaign. They want the agency to bring them fresh ideas that will work. The agency needs to carefully listen, ask the right questions, and then deliver the work. Sometimes, a little pushback to a client can be very helpful. The client might be so bogged down in their world that they are overlooking something new and exciting. The days of the “yes man” are gone. Being an order taker won’t cut it anymore—you have to be willing to take charge and help lead the client when needed.
Can the agency manage the team efficiently?
Over time, an observant agency account person can almost start to read a client’s mind. Having a strong history and in-depth knowledge of the account enables an agency to anticipate how a client will react to concepts, situations, and more. Like siblings, a good account person and client can get into a good working rhythm that makes things run more efficiently. A “telepathy” is developed between the two in which not everything has to be exhaustively explained or reiterated, even when a new person starts on the account. Clients want account teams that manage the business without any unnecessary disruptions or pauses.
Are they charging me too much?
Clients understand that an agency is in business to make money. If a client starts to feel that their agency is taking advantage of them, they may question or terminate the relationship. With today’s thinner profit margins, agencies are tasked with finding more cost-effective solutions than ever for clients. Be careful with your recommendations; make sure they are on strategy and can deliver maximum impact within the allocated budget.
To an agency, there is nothing better than sustaining a relationship with a long-term client. Getting clients to stay is a science. Agencies always need to be on the lookout for how they can provide more value and service to their clients to keep the relationship fresh, exciting, and beneficial to both parties.