What I Have Learned By Talking to Clients.


I talk to a fair amount of clients. It’s fun. I have a large network and get connected to them when they have needs and pain points. I also connect with them when they are out of a job or when they have friends who are out of jobs.

When I conduct agency reviews we often share a car, a shuttle, an airport, a plane with them for over 12 hours a day for days and a fair amount of time on the phone. We arrive at the end in some central parking lot and I sometimes see the light on their cell phone brighten with a text from their boss.

“Will you bring any new ideas to the meeting at 8 in the morning?”  I feel their pain.

They also share their experiences about agencies. It’s just another part of their life. Most times I learn by being silent and looking and listening to them when they speak. I hear a lot of interesting things as chemistry is always a key element for agencies to win new business and how do you quantify the feeling of chemistry?

Clients today are increasingly project focused.

Agencies want retainer clients for sure, but that is not the way the world is going these days. I know. I have wanted world peace all my life. I have heard John Lennon singing about it near where I worked in Toronto.

Clients tell me about their frustration with their initial interaction with an agency. I don’t know who they talk to but I do hear them saying that when they are talking about project work, clients don’t want to hear about a  minimum $75K a month fee from an agency that few have heard of.

Who is answering the entry point of your agency’s New Business Funnel? Isn’t that what you sell?

Clients call that agency arrogance and attitude. Agencies call it screening criteria. Some of them may have people doing cold calling. Since clients have the money maybe it is time for an Agency Attitude Adjustment.

Maybe the gatekeeper needs to get a new screener script, be more agile, more experienced or maybe if you are an agency principal you should take the call if the client is a national or global brand no matter how small the project. Wasn’t a Cannes Winner a spot that never ran on Network TV? This is the New Normal.

Some clients come to me and say they are in the middle of a review. They share their list of agencies that look like they came out of a blender. Who gave them that dance card? Often friends, often a rudimentary Google search. I worry about the outcome of that process.

Some clients share that they first eliminated agencies based on their websites. How is yours? When is the last time you updated it?

Clients tell me that often their agency AOR seems stale to them especially if it is a division that doesn’t get much love. Agencies forget the passion of their chase. We have all worked in that environment. For creative people it is not reputation building, for agencies it is not revenue building but for clients within larger organizations it can be career building.

Often those clients go to smaller shops. That is why when I visit agencies in all parts of the country everyone has a Microsoft Logo or McDonald’s Logo or a Monster Energy Logo in their lobby or on their list of clients in their Capabilities deck, even when they are only blocks apart.

What I have learned from talking to clients is that agencies need to listen to them. Listening means not talking and focusing on the silence of hearing.

That is what I have learned so far.

Connect with Hank on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook:


Watch: Are You Ready to get Fired?

How to Conduct an Agency Review?

Ten Networking Tips.


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