I had coffee the other day with a marketing consultant who shared an interesting thought with me: he feels that young account people today don’t really get to know their clients, and don’t know how to build relationships. He blamed it on the way agencies communicate with clients today. I agree with him.
The other day, as I was leaving the gym, I caught a bit of a news report covering the past year in technology. Approximately somewhere around 50 trillion emails were sent out last year. We send emails instead of connecting in person, and we are getting way too comfortable with that fact. The number did comfort me briefly, as it made the deficit seem a bit smaller.
So here are few questions to ask yourself: if your agency’s primary contact with clients is email, does that build relationships? Does that give your workers the opportunity to build rapport? Are your workers really listening to what your clients have to say? Can you hear the strain in the voices, their laughter, their sneezes when they’re unwell, their candid observations about their company and the people that they work with and for the small secrets that build confidence and rapport? I doubt it, I really do. I don’t think that clients are going to put their emotions in an email and copy the world to have an email trail, just in case. The legal department couldn’t handle that email footer disclaimer.
You learn about people by talking to them and meeting with them in person. When I was a puppy in the business, I was taught a few client contact touch points goals I’d like to share with you:
1. At least one or more daily calls with the client, even if nothing was going on. Just to check in. I am on watch. I am here. Didn’t take long.
2. At least one face-to-face meeting per week. More was better. I don’t know if I was taught that or I learned it by walking down the hall and listening to my peers talking to their client counterparts on the phone.
3. Creative is always sold in person even if the client was out of town, as other options were not even on the table.
I worked with a very smart President for a number of years. He was a great motivator who invested in people, and that built a lot of respect for him in my mind. He was definitely a relationship guy, great at measuring the pulse of clients. Although he was President of the company, he always made sure to schedule a monthly personal lunch with the top marketing client or the President on a regular basis. We didn’t get many incoming fires, because he found out what was smoldering, and he made sure the embers were quickly put out.
I had a Starbucks with a young and successful agency principal the other day. His agency’s business was galloping. One reason why was they followed their clients as they moved from one company to another – what I consider a great strategy. To be able to do so, your clients have to like you and have a meaningful client-agency relationship. Clients like you first, and remember your capabilities second.
So how much of an investment are you making in your staff? Or in being great relationship people? Have you taught them about how to work in a service business, or did your IT people just give them a tutorial on how to use your company’s email system? Have you ever shared your thoughts on how to develop strong client relationships? Do you encourage them to spend time with your clients? Have you ever trained them on how to network? If you do, you will create an environment that leads to osmosis of improved skills.
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