Clients Need to Know: Are You Helping or Selling?

Assure Them That You Always Have Their Best Interests at Heart

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Every day one of your clients is likely receiving a package, e-mail or phone call from a competing agency offering to replace you. And just as likely, your client is wading through these to determine which, if any, he or she should pay attention to.

Ask yourself, what can I do about this? Or maybe better, what should I be doing?

As agency people, we have to assure our clients that we always have their best interests at heart. When we make a recommendation, argue a point of view or plan a budget investment, the client has to feel that our motivation is helping, not selling. They have to feel that our goal is to grow their business, believing that if we're successful, our businesses will grow as well.

When selecting an agency partner or making the decision to rebuff the advances of a competing agency, clients look at the tangible, but more importantly the intangible value of their agency partners. While they may claim to want the best work, the best prices and the most responsive partner (and I'm sure they do), deep down in a place you never find on the RFP, they value honest, insightful and non-self-serving advice.

This was recently brought to my attention during a phone interview with Julia Fitzgerald, the chief digital engagement officer at Sears Holdings Corp. I was interviewing Julia about Sears' Christmas QR Code Campaign. Given that most of the campaign was handed internally by Sears, I wanted to find out where the idea had come from -- Sears, an agency partner or possibly one of those interlopers I mention above.

My fellow agency owners will be glad to know the genesis was an e-mail from the president of one of Sears' digital shops. But the big point here is that the message from Chris Wire, president of Real Art Design Group, wasn't selling anything. It was just simply a note that Julia should "check this out" and it contained a link to a video about how Tesco was using QR codes in subways to overcome a lack of stores versus its biggest competitor. There wasn't a big write up about how Real Art could do this for Sears or a big proposal to launch a similar QR Code test for Sears. There was no selling, only a bit of helping.

The goal of the missive was simply to point a client to an idea and execution that not only "was the coolest use of QR that I'd seen" to quote Julia, but more importantly, a campaign that was solving a problem that was similar to the one Sears was having -- trying to engage consumers outside of the retail environment.

And therein lies the greatest CRM opportunity for every agency reading this. You know more about your client than the prospective poacher that is calling on them, or at least you ought to. Combine that with a world in which technology is changing daily and you have the perfect opportunity to reinforce your intangible value every day with every client.

You have their direct phone, their private e-mail and maybe even their IM or permission to DM them on Twitter. You have all these access points to a client that wants you to feed a steady flow of great ideas -- some of which you'll likely get to execute -- but also those that you won't. And all you need to do is cast a long, wide antenna to ensure that you're finding great ideas to share.

By focusing on the bigger picture, the client's success and not your own, you create a bond that is more impenetrable and lasting for the long haul.

Tom Martin created Converse Digital to help companies and agencies monitor, create and engage in digital conversations. Want to talk? Just email [email protected] or follow @TomMartin on Twitter.
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