Top 10 Guide: Marketing your Start-Up and SME
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I’ve worked for (and with) a number of agencies in various cities, servicing countless local and global clients, and to a greater or lesser extent these themes are always there. Whether a creative agency, a digital agency etc., it’s always the same.
You’ll recognise them I’m sure:
This is where a good agency, and a strong client services function in particular, starts to differentiate itself from the pretenders. Some agencies have the mindset and culture which breeds success, rather than setting themselves up to fail.
A true client partner (you know the kind of agency I mean; they offer solutions over services) will reframe their thinking before taking the easy approach and blaming external influences. They’ll take a hard look at the customer-consultant relationship and strive for continual improvement.
Kaizen (改善) is the Sino-Japanese word for “improvement”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees.
In the spirit of continual, iterative improvement I’ve penned some thoughts on these everyday agency grumbles.
Many clients can indeed write a succinct and effective brief, but if the brief provided doesn’t give sufficient detail to ensure quality of delivery an agency has a couple of options:
What you absolutely should not do is try and press on regardless. In a futile attempt to save face the execution will ultimately suffer and you’ll be left complaining that the client can’t write a brief. If you can’t help the client refine the brief, perhaps you’re not the right agency for them.
This is an easy one. Why does the client keep changing their mind? Because they’re human. Because they’re subject to forces beyond their control. We all change our minds or have them changed for us. Ever returned some new shoes the next day? Exactly.
You probably bought those shoes in the first place because you didn’t know exactly what you wanted. Unclear brief? See point 1. If external forces are “to blame” for the change then adapt and refocus.
There are many routes to the optimum outcome and the route taken isn’t always (and seldom is) direct. The role of a good agency is to use their experience and judgement to guide a client through the decision-making process, not make the decision for them or to berate them for changing their mind.
This is one of my favourites. Easy to complain about but difficult to diagnose. There are many, many reasons why a client is resistant to paying what you think a project is worth. Consider the following:
Is the work you’re delivering a commodity? A service rather than a solution. Is the client seeing a finished product but not the knowledge and years of experience required to deliver it to your standard?
If the conversation is one-way, if you’ve accepted briefs that aren’t a good fit, if you’ve delivered work exactly to spec without applying your experience, then perhaps you’re now pigeonholed as an external production house.
The client-agency relationship should be a value-exchange.
Suddenly it’s easy to see why a piece of work feels over-priced when “I can get the same thing on People Per Hour for half of that”. An agency, particularly in 2019, needs to be ever-conscious of their value proposition. If you decide not to specialise, then you at least need to differentiate. Know your craft and add value.
Deadlines are about process. Delivering the optimum outcome in an efficient manner, whilst maintaining profitability (value-exchange).
Deadlines change; people aren’t machines. A good project manager will anticipate that. Even when delays exceed contingencies, a strong, well-managed team can adapt and re-focus.
An open and transparent relationship with the client will ensure that even when there are delays, expectations are managed from both sides and a slipping deadline (the HORROR!) isn’t a shock to anyone.
The mistake a lot of agencies make is being afraid to communicate the impact these delays will have on delivery. If an agency can pick up the slack and still deliver on time then fantastic, but that should never be the expected approach when comms channels are clear and honest.
There’s a lot more to say about fostering the right collective mindset, but I’ll save that for another post. Instead, I’ll leave you with these wise words from some experienced agency professionals: