Recently the AAAA published a bulletin Management Matters | Surviving in this Challenging Economy in which the Association offered “guidance on steps to take in this challenging economic environment.”
Specifically, business development is covered by Steve Boehler of Mercer Island Group, Tim Williams of Ignition Consulting Group and Dave Beals of Jones Lundin Beals. And it’s worth the read. If your shop implemented half of the good advice present in on those few pages, you’d go a long way toward insuring a better year for your agency and your clients.
But I think these guys stopped short, so with apologies to Dave, Tim and Steve, I’d like to add to their wiki of ad agency new business knowledge.
They write about developing a differentiated product (Tim’s brilliant) and putting as much thought into your RFPs as you do your campaigns, and articulating value. (Dave wrote the book, literally, on agency compensation). Theatrics over real selling, and shoring up your existing client relationships (Steve’s been preaching this a long time)! But I never read where any of theses gentlemen talked about the agency business as a relationship business.
I’ll say it again. This is a relationship business. And let’s face it, if you’re not face to face with your clients you’re missing a lot! “We regularly check in via teleconference and Skype”, you say. “I send my AE, she’s great”, you say. Fine, but Mrs. or Mr. Agency CEO, that’s your job. It’s what you promised your client when you were first dating. Remember?
Yes, we can work across the country and technology has changed what’s possible in the business world. But there are some things, like taking the pulse of a relationship, instincts, gut feeling and handshakes that technology will never change or replace. What about all the unspoken? How do you read body language over the phone? Being in your client’s space is valuable information you can’t afford not to know. Walk in their shoes. What’s a day like for them? What barriers come between them and their agency that they’ve got no control over? It’s so easy for us to think that the work we’re doing on our clients’ behalf is THE most important thing they have to do every day. It’s not.
Think of other relationships you’re aware of outside of business. Sure there are stories of Internet dates, people meeting once, falling in love and being together 50 years. But they’re rare! Would you have agreed to a date with your S.O if all your communication had been over the phone and through Fed Ex? OK then. The same goes for prospects and suspects.
Remember the relationship. This year as your putting your strategic plans in place, plan on more face time with your clients; if you don’t someone else will. And there are a lot of hungry shops out there eager to show your favorite client just how short sighted your agency has been with their account.