What’s Wrong with Client Agency Relationships? Often there is no romance. It is as simple as that.
I’ve always used dating and relationship analogies in characterizing New Business and client agency relationships because I think there are simple analogies between both worlds.
I often say that New Business is akin to the pursuit of a new love while advertising is like being married. Not that long term relationships can’t be kept first day fresh.
Pursuit is pursuit.
So what do I hear out there from my client and agency networks? Well I hear from many agencies that there haven’t been long term commitments from clients in the past year. It is project versus retainer work. This doesn’t build commitment and creates uncertainty.
In effective relationships both parties want commitment.
Showing up from time to time often doesn’t generate much fire.
In romance the question that would result from such as s relationship would be, “Are you committed to me or not?”
Using multiple vendors creates the same tension as saying that you want to date each other but also date other people.
Asking for the benefits that come with commitment when you only have occasional interactions can feel a little one sided. Many clients have maintained the same high standards and expectation from their agencies while cutting their budgets and reducing their resources.
My client friends often tell me that they are frustrated because their agency doesn’t know anything about their business. In romance that might sound like, “You don’t know anything about me.”
A simple fix that you solve by living and breathing the client’s business. In romance it would be learning what’s important to your partner and then doing it with them. Walking in your counterparts shoes for a while works in relationships and in the agency business.
Recently I talked to a client who was considering an agency review. What’s the problem I asked? They said that their agency didn’t bring them any strategic leadership. I have heard the same words from different people many times over the years.
In romance that might sound like this. “You don’t love me anymore.”
How do you avoid that happening in the agency and client worlds? Yearly internal account reviews to senior agency management followed by a yearly retreat with the client and basically repitching their business. Think of them as client innovation sessions.
In romance that might translate to taking your significant other on an unplanned vacation to a surprise location. A little bit of extra effort in both worlds pay great dividends often.
Clients often tell me that they and their agency don’t communicate very well anymore.
In romance this might sound like, “We don’t talk anymore.”
In both worlds, it is not what you say that counts; it is what other people hear that matters.
When I talk to the incumbent agency at the start of a review some tell me that they were totally surprised. I don’t think they were listening very well.
Other times both sides know that things aren’t going very well and there are no surprises.
The other factor that strains and eventually breaks down relationships in both worlds is money. I often hear ladies talking about their partners to their friends and I often hear the dreaded. “He’s cheap.” When both parties in a relationship aren’t on the same financial page, often tension and contention quickly surface.
A key factor that causes client agency relationships to crumble is compensation. A slow decline from acceptance often to resentment in the end. I read something earlier in the year from a very smart marketer. He said it succinctly. “Marginal compensation leads to marginal performance.”
What is the secret of maintaining great relationships? It is passion. The flame must burn strong and be reignited constantly.
What works in New Business? Passion. It is as simple as that. That is why I call my New Business Development approach for agencies “Hank Blank’s Passion Approach to New Business.” It is all about the chase, the conquest, the pursuit, the creativity to impress.
Doing the routine, the expected, the norm, does not create much spark in business nor in romance.
Besides conducing agency searches, Hank also helps agencies build effective New Business programs. He frequently speaks to AAF Chapters on Why Agencies Don’t Want New Business and Networking Your Way to New Business. You can contact Hank at firstname.lastname@example.org
He has two CD’s on his site about New Business Development that has helped many agencies win more New Business. Hank does not do relationship therapy.