This is the eternal million-dollar question that many agencies are breaking their best heads on. I’ll start by defining the client first because there are clients and clients, and my story will address a very rare breed.
Client I talk about here is an international company or a high-profile individual. As they have many things in common, I will simply write client, meaning either. Client is focused on success and knows that his success will be joint effort, a combination of best practices in product development, brand and image management, research, sourcing, employee management, business development and a whole set of other activities, advertising and PR playing just a small part of it. Client also understands that he has to pay the fee for your work, and this is never in dispute. Client is the upright figure, respectful of law, cognizant of good governance practices and not on the take. Practically, a rare bird.
Certainly not the most important part of it, for what I have seen in my career. We, the advertising people, want to make ourselves into such grand magicians and problem solvers that unfortunately, some clients believe us. But not the client I’m talking about. This client sees and cuts through bullshit because he wants value from the agency.
In fact, everyone wants value in everything. Value is easily quantifiable in the currency of what is desired. In advertising we often talk of ROI but I doubt we even know where to begin measuring it. And I can now dive into this theoretical talk except that I have no intention of making this into a big, fat, pompous, “I know it all” story.
Client wants a strong agency.
This must be well-reflected in the agency’s structure. Solid structure with clear lines of deployment, clear management structure, a team that’s well-integrated, works well together and delivers results. Client wants to see years of togetherness and solid CVs, credentials, examples of brilliance and wit, evidence of living like one organism.
Client wants to understand what the agency can do for brands. It is not enough to put a portfolio together with your best foot forward. Demonstrate how you have moved the bottom-line of client X from spot A to spot B. How did you start building his brand? Where did you take his brand? Any example you give is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability. Do not waste your time on cropping pretty pictures, waste your time on numbers and totals.
Client wants to see how well you understand his target audience. Do you recognise his consumer, can you describe that consumer, do you enter inside the mind of the consumer and are you able to speak the same language with the consumer. Client knows the old one: “Consumer is not an idiot, she’s your wife” and he does not settle for fair, good or average work. Do your research, crack the consumer enigma, provide valuable insights and you will be valuable to the client.
Client wants to know that you know what his competitors are doing. How are you going to keep an eye on the whole industry depends on your abilities, connections, bank account. But you must be able to know the basics in order to see what works and what doesn’t for your client’s competitors, because you will be competing in the same market for the same share of the cake.
Client wants to feel that he will have the least amount of headache with your agency. You need to demonstrate that you can plug all the bullet-holes on the water drum for your client. Servicing, reporting, project management, efficiency, planning, execution – these are all the elements of comfort that you have to provide to the client. Many more, of course, these are just the key bits.
Client wants the big picture and cost-efficiency on details. Can you provide overall strategy with confidence that you will implement on budget, on time, consistently delivering quality work and saving costs at the same time? That is the catch that we often neglect to pay attention to. I am sure most agencies do this, and more, but forget to quantify savings in therms of money and in terms of time saved to the client.
Client has the need to communicate in a multi-platform environment and wants assurance that the agency can handle 360 degrees. Demonstrate this ability on successful examples, not in theory.
Finally, client wants to work with people of integrity. Believe it or not, this is extremely important. If you can demonstrate your working principles and ethics and show how all that makes you a better, more productive, more focused and honest team, you may just be the right choice for the client. Because ultimately, we want to work with people who are like us, we want to be able to leave work together and have a pint, have a conversation that is building friendship for the years to come.
Important: build a relationship from the start. Demonstrate genuine interest in understanding the client, his requirements, needs. More importantly, even, demonstrate keen interest in understanding the finesses of your client’s business so you can grasp where his decisions come from and also anticipate some of those decisions, giving yourself time and space to preempt new campaigns with amazing work and plans.
Finally, it is a learning and exciting process so exchange ideas, share your insights, challenge the usual and provide alternative thinking.
This is not a textbook, just a bunch of notes, take everything with a pinch of salt and add your own spices. But don’t compromise on two things: never serve bullshit to your client and your integrity is not for sale.