Do Marketers Think You're a High-Maintenance Ad Agency?

Five Ways to Make Life a Little Easier for Your Client (and You)

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A client recently said to me, "Don't take this personally, but agencies are difficult to manage." This, from an executive who has several agencies in his stable. He didn't mean it in a disparaging way; he was just speaking what he believes is a fact.

It's not the first time I've heard that . And I'm sure you've heard it before as well. So, why are agencies seen as tougher to manage than other service providers? And how can agencies be easier for clients manage? Or, should they even try to be?

Here are five areas I believe are in most agencies' DNA that make clients squirm:

1. Listen before you speak
Passion oozes out of most ad agencies. So much so that we can't wait to share our point of view. There are a lot of smart people in shops like ours, with rare talents. Hard to suppress that . That said, there are times to speak up and times to listen. Client briefings are one such important time to leverage our ears. Feedback following a presentation is another one -- especially if the feedback is critical. If your client feels he/she isn't being heard, that could lead to trouble for the campaign -- not to mention the relationship.

2. What's the hurry?
I've seen and heard this one. The agency team travels a good distance to meet with its client. After an hour in the meeting, and once the work has been presented, the agency folks start packing up, shutting down their laptops, and reaching for their luggage (which is waiting close by , ready to be wheeled out of the conference room). Is the client ready to end the meeting? What about staying for a drink or dinner? Even if you can't stay, don't always look like you want to be anywhere but in that meeting. Sends a bad message. Enjoy the social times with your clients more and your relationship will strengthen.

3. Push back less
If you strongly believe in an idea, but your client doesn't, you are being paid to express and defend the idea. Clients don't always get what you are trying to convey when you first present it. But, after you defend the work and your client still has an issue with it, what should you do? Continue to push back? You can, but it makes clients crazy. Yes, some of the best creative shops will fall on their swords repeatedly for an idea, but you'd better pick your battles carefully. You will wear out your welcome quickly if you push back every time, again and again, without demonstrating flexibility.

4. Nothing personal
When you receive critical feedback about an idea, don't take it personally. It's just business. Yet many agencies do, feeling wounded because their "baby" was just shot down. Sure it hurts when your idea is rejected, but keep it to yourself and deal with it privately. Clients don't have time to manage your emotions.

5. One is better than four
Structure your client relationships is a way that 's easy for communication to flow freely and accurately. One way to accomplish this is by having one point of contact. Sounds like Staffing 101, yet most agencies with multidisciplinary practices have multiple points of contact soon after the relationship begins. This is obviously difficult for clients to manage. So best to have one, highly knowledgeable, highly competent account manager serve in that role; someone who understands advertising, digital, public relations, social media, brand strategy, media and the various experiential ad mediums. Easy for me to say, harder to find. But with a little training, you'll see how easily it can be done. This single point of contact doesn't have to be an expert in each of the disciplines -- just possess a working knowledge.

I am sharing these tips because Brownstein Group has been guilty of some of them, too. I feel the majority of shops are well-intended and care deeply about their clients -- and the business success of their collaboration. But sometimes in our zeal to do our thing, we convey the wrong message and damage is done. Needlessly. Hopefully, if we can be more conscious about how we interact with our clients, we will enjoy longer-lasting, thriving relationships.

Marc Brownstein is president of The Brownstein Group, Philadelphia.
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