I like talking to clients. I wrote a blog recently called What I Have Learned by Talking to Clients in the past.
I was having a coffee with a client friend the other morning and he shared his observations on his agency experiences.
He said that when the relationship starts it is all good. Lots of attention and ideation. “I could feel the love.” He shared that after a while the agency seems to drift into a different place. They spend less time reaching out with new ideas as if they were settling into their retainer hours and gave him that much attention and not an hour more.
He said that the relationship changed to a point where the agency just focused on what he asked them to do.
Then he said something that stayed with me.
“I wish they presented something I can say no to.”
It wasn’t that the ideas were good or bad, it was that they stopped coming.
I have always said that New Business and Advertising have nothing to do with each other. One is the pursuit of a new love and the other is like being married. To maintain a healthy relationship you need to keep bringing the love in business and in life.
I have talked to clients during the early stages of doing a review and ask them what is wrong with their agency relationship and they tell me that their agency has just become an order taker and not a source of innovation. They share that their job is much more difficult than ever before and that they need more than that. I often see the worry on their faces.
Now I know that agencies increasingly have to worry about profitability but that penny smart philosophy can lead to eventual pain when lost clients go out the door. Clients want agencies for counsel and ideas and not just to do stuff. Clients can go in house to get stuff done.
I was thinking about how other New Normal successful companies achieve success. I have heard that Google employees get to spend 20% of their time coming up with ideas. I think that is how they developed Google Glass and the Google self-driving car.
I knew a successful agency in the past who would spend Friday afternoons off the clock brainstorming ideas for their clients. I remember they were an agency everyone in town respected and emulated and talked about.
I think that ideation can get stifled in an agency when employees get time sheet paralysis and have to account for every working hour.
I have never kept a time sheet since being out on my own. The only time sheet that matters is goes into the bank.
Maybe you should implement a policy where any ideation time spent on existing clients on projects they did not commission would be allocated to New Business. Maybe that would lead to more commission.
One of the foundation tenets of successful advertising agency New Business used to be focus first on growing your existing clients before chasing strangers.
Maybe it is time to bring your clients some ideas they can say no to.
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