Monday, October 22, 2012

Understanding the changing client.

There's no question that client attitudes towards agencies have changed over the years. We've gone from being a trusted partner and business confidante to a vendor of ads or specialty services for many clients.

But I believe that better times are ahead for those agencies that understand clients' needs and the role they can play in helping them to succeed.

Let's take a step back and look at things from the client's perspective. The technology explosion and the resulting choices that need to be made can be daunting to clients. Just think about all the new media and selling channels that continue to open every day. It's no longer a question of which media do I use/can I afford; the bigger question is how to integrate a coherent and consistent brand message across multiple channels while trying to read and react to the new input that is arriving every minute. Add to that the fact that the buying and decision process for consumers has evolved from an information evaluation funnel to a continuous smorgasbord of often conflicting product reviews and peer recommendations both pre and post purchase.

Clients need help, and a smart agency can provide that help.  Here are five things to consider when  approaching clients and prospects about new business:
  1. Clients are confused and overwhelmed by the pace of change. New options continue to come on the scene every day, and clients need help in evaluating and determining which options make the most sense for their needs and budget constraints. 
  2. Clients are under more pressure than every before.  The 2012 Spencer Stuart CMO Tenure Study pegged the average tenure for CMO's at 43 months (versus 9.2 years for CEO's).  But some categories are much more pressure-packed.  The average tenure of a restaurant CMO is only 22 months.
  3. Clients want leadership, not partnership.   A recent New Business Study confirmed this with client quotes like "I need an agency to help me figure out how to take advantage of the new tools that are available", and "I need an agency that can help me invest in the right tools".
  4. Clients want new ideas, not better execution of old ideas.  Clients are searching for the "holy grail".  You need to give them something new to think about, if for no other reason that for them to demonstrate to their boss that they are moving the brand forward.
  5. Clients want process (it reassures them).  Clients don't want to take chances.  They can't afford to take chances because someone is looking over their shoulder questioning every decision they make.  In most of my new business projects over the last few years, I believe the client prospect made the safe decision, whether it was the best decision or not.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that clients aren't asking "How can you help us make ads or a new web site".  They are saying "How much do you know about our business in order to help us build a bridge between our brand and our customers."

And they are saying "Help".