Don't Let Your Routine Become a Rut

Sometimes We Take Longtime Clients for Granted

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
Have you ever noticed that hairstylists tend to do a worse job on your hair the more times you use them? I usually don't go to the same person more than three times before I notice their lack of attention to detail. This trait can also be found in ad agencies if we're not careful. Getting into a routine with a client is good, but be careful you don't get into a rut.

We have been recently working on a new branding project for one of our clients. It's been very rewarding because the approach my partner, Steve McKee, used gave us a fresh perspective. Steve met with the client and told them that we wanted to rethink their branding approach, like we would do if we were a newly-hired agency. The client was intrigued and told Steve, "OK, you're fired. Now you're hired. So as my new agency, bring me your best thinking of what we need to be doing to achieve our goals."

What resulted was an integrated campaign that is far beyond what I imagined possible. The client has never been more excited about the work we've done for them, and our employees are rejuvenated. This experience re-energized our approach with all of our clients. We have begun to act like the new agency more consistently.

It's easy to lose the excitement of working for a client but it's imperative for success that we always do our best. Thinking, "They'll never buy that" or "They never let us do anything different so why should we try?" are sure ways to become stale and predictable. This ultimately results in a client feeling taken for granted and believing it could get better work elsewhere. Don't believe that clients know your real strengths or that they realize that they have discouraged you by their own lack of vision. When a marketing crisis arises, clients typically hold the agency responsible. Giving the client what it asked for does not assure your retention.

Agency personnel can quickly become disinterested in a client's success when the agency's recommendations are consistently ignored. Much like a marriage needs refreshment, so too does your client relationship. Frank discussion with a client about your concerns for their marketing decisions can be difficult and even treacherous, but if you value the relationship as long-term, it is a necessary thing to do. Being frank about these issues can result in your client placing more value in your agency. You may even get an opportunity to create a rejuvenation of its brand.

The key to maintaining an attitude that will keep you doing your best for your clients is seeing them as "new clients." I realize that some clients really are not going to buy what they really need. If you hold to the principles of only giving your clients your best thinking, those who don't value your thinking will find their way to agencies more suitable to their needs. If your agency is one of the fortunate ones that has clients that allow you to re-think where they've been and where they are going in their marketing, then you will have a satisfying experience -- as will your client.

Make no mistake: agencies don't acquire clients like this through luck. It happens because you do what attracts those who appreciate the marketing skills you have, you put them in practice daily.
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