Now there is a symptom of this slow economy that will prevent you from being able to delight your clients in the first place: getting a decision on a relationship/project. I have spoken with several agency CEOs in recent weeks, and have even experienced it myself in my agency -- there has been a slowdown with clients pulling the trigger on business. RFPs are in limbo. Some RFPs are discussed and agencies identified for participation, but not distributed. Proposals are requested, crafted by the agency and presented, but decisions are delayed -- often without timelines. Pitches are made and winners are not decided, with the outcome postponed sometimes indefinitely.
Now $4.50-per-gallon gas certainly doesn't help things here. Clients are having a heck of a time trying to recapture energy costs through price increases, but in many cases, only two-thirds of that cost is captured, leaving brands with additional margin pressure. If you've ever seen what it's like for a brand manager to have to justify lower earnings to senior management -- well, it isn't pleasant. I have friends going through it every week, and I feel their pain. Is it any wonder that so many opportunities wait in limbo?
So here are a few things you can do to replenish your cash flow, not just your pipeline:
- Do a better job of understanding your client's business problems first. You may bring a solution that can help the business issue, which can lead to the marketing spend getting re-prioritized.
- Ask for a meeting with the client contact, plus their senior management, to determine how you can get things back on track. Is it the scope? Pricing? Timing? Find out what's causing the delay.
- See if you can do some reduced-level consulting and execution while the larger opportunities wait for budget approval, or whatever the cause for delay is.
- If you do all, or some of the above, and it doesn't advance your cause, then I advise you to move on. If the client is interested in your agency, and recessionary issues are preventing the work from getting a green light, then know you've done all you can, and when the markets return to health, hopefully you will re-engage.
- On that note, be sure to stay top-of-mind with your client when the sun rises on the economy again.