The Client Accounts You Don't Want to Win

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MARC BROWNSTEIN: You are whom you surround yourself with. We’ve all been tempted to chase the wrong leads at times. But small- to mid-sized agencies need to be smarter about spending our time with the right prospects, and not chasing opportunities for the sake of filling a pipeline. We don't have the resources that a global 2,500-person shop has -- and we, more than anyone, need to be choosy. It all starts with people. At Brownstein Group, we choose the people we want to work with as much as the brands we want to represent.

We've learned a lot from prospective clients who have abused the process of selecting an agency, or have wanted us to spell out the entire plan in the proposal. If that's the case, WHY would they hire us? We've just given them our intellectual property (which is the most valuable asset an agency can offer). So what's preventing the client from taking those ideas and paying a couple of freelancers to build them or bring them to fruition?

The rule of thumb is this: If a prospective client has unrealistic expectations or demands during the pitch process -- they will continue to have them if and when you win the business. We have to ask ourselves if a client like this is manageable and a true collaborator/team player, or someone who is only looking to get the job done for the cheapest price possible.

It's very tough, in this business environment, to walk away from potential revenue. Especially as an executive who is responsible for meeting or exceeding financial projections. However, we need to ask ourselves what the long-range value of the client is. Weighting the value of a prospect isn't all about budget and timeline; it's about intangibles such as personality, work ethic, culture and communication skills. Does this prospect put your agency in the position to be successful? Are their goals and company values in line with yours? Will they allow you to do great work, and compensate you fairly for it? And if they want to just give you a project, that’s fine, as long as both parties realize that the relationship is such, and the client doesn't try to get agency-quality thinking and execution for the price of a one-off project.

This is also why we marry for love. And not for just money. Think about the long haul, your agency’s reputation, and not this quarter's projections. You’ll have a better agency as a result.
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