This point was driven home today when I attended a luncheon presentation on healthcare marketing entitled "Messages that Resonate on Quality". The speaker asked each table to discuss how to define quality in healthcare, and then proceeded to show us research that showed we had all missed the correct answer.
Our table quickly defined quality as a positive outcome. When you are sick, the doctor diagnoses your problem and prescribes a cure that works. Problem solved. Except neither the patients nor the healthcare professionals who responded to a national study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation defined quality as a positive outcome.
To the patient, quality is about the relationship and the personal experience during the entire process of setting the appointment, visiting the doctor's office, spending time with the doctor (or nurse practitioner), and the billing experience with the insurance provider. Of course, they want a positive outcome, but if the experience is sub-par, so is the perception of the quality of the healthcare provider. To the healthcare professsional, quality is about the efficiency and mechanics of the process. How difficult is it to schedule an operating room? What is the availability of specialty nurses?
So how does this relate to business development for an agency? Simple. We need to listen better to what the client says and then try to understand what they really mean.How many agencies continue to focus their sales presentation on creative execution when the client really wants to know how effective the campaign was in generating sales and profits? How many agencies try to make a big splash by showcasing their award-winning television, when the client's need is print and outdoor, or when their customer base is 18-24 males who are infrequent television viewers?
When the RFP asks you to describe the "efficiency of your media department" are they asking about the planning and buying process or about the relative cpm vs. SQAD data?
Agencies that succeed in new business listen better. They ask questions. They try to understand what the client really means. They build a relationship to make sure they focus their selling message on what the client needs to hear, not what they want to say.