Stop thinking like an agency.  Think like a client.

Chances are, if you’re asked to distill a client’s creative brief down to a single, compelling thought, your team will more than likely ace it.  Ask the same agency team to present their credentials to a new client in less than 15 minutes and well, that’s as likely as a client not asking to have their logo made bigger.

You see, the more we talk with agencies, the more we see agencies fumbling their credentials presentations either because they’re cramming too much information into the precious time that’s been allotted, or because their stories don’t differentiate themselves sufficiently from others. 

But why?

A large part of the reason is undoubtedly the difficulty in seeing the ‘forest from the trees’.  As I thought about this, I wondered if the best advice I could give is for agencies to stop thinking like an agency and think more like a client. (And not just when presenting their credentials presentations.)  I mean everything.  Here are five examples:

Listen more than you talk

Listening skills are obviously critical when you’re being briefed on a client’s business problem – but are you really listening or are you just hearing what’s being said?  Are you listening to what’s not being said, listening to how information is being presented and observing body language?  All of those cues can provide valuable insight into the subject matter. And truly engaged listening creates empathy, interest and leaves a positive impression. 

Think ROI

Recession, possible recession, no recession – it doesn’t matter.  Every client wants to know what they can expect from their investment in whatever it is they’re asking you to do. And if you’re in a pitch situation, then the same applies, and you should be creating some sort of ROI model to demonstrate you’re thinking about the potential return – even if your assumptions are a little off.

Get to the point

Not surprisingly, most clients have considerably more on their plates than managing their agency relationships, needs, challenges and outputs.  So whether you’re presenting an idea, a solution or your credentials – get to the point!  If you can’t distill whatever it is into something succinct, it’s almost certainly too complicated for a client team to digest easily and decisions or approvals will almost certainly take longer than you’d like

Think operationally

As an outside observer, this is one of the key areas where we see agencies falling down in their ability to provide sound outside counsel to their clients.  Almost every marketing initiative has an operational impact of some kind, and what may seem easy to an agency can often be complicated for a client to approve, pay for and / or implement within their own ecosystems. So whatever you’re proposing or presenting, view whatever it is from a client perspective and be ready with the answers to the kinds of questions that might be important to them.

How are your clients bonused?

If you don’t know how your clients are bonused – please make every effort to find out.  The answers can be extremely insightful in helping shape your agency’s communication and client management efforts.  Sales, EBITA, share price, brand awareness, accounts opened, door pulls – whatever it may be – can give you valuable insight into how your clients think and how they will likely evaluate the outcome of your agency’s efforts.

These are just five examples – perhaps some resonate and some don’t.  But the point here is the more agencies are able to put themselves in the shoes of their clients, the more likely they are to add real value and / or be significantly more successful in new business efforts.

Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else.

Photo: Theo Crazzolara
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