Funny thing about being involved in both the traditional and digital side of advertising is you see all the flaws in each of the processes. Traditional agencies want to be the Agency of Record (AOR) for a client, while a Web/New Media (digital*) shop usually wants the project(s). Traditional agencies live and die by creating long-term relationships, praying that they don’t do something stupid and shoot their cash cow as they sleep. Digital shops live and die project to project, and pray they keep getting overflow or vendor status. Why?
A lot of where this mentality has come from the fact that digital firms are typically an outsourced service. Larger traditional shops reach out to them, hire them for a ‘smash and grab’ campaign, then they’re off nagging their client to do more television. Yes, there are myriad of agencies that have both shops under one roof. And yes, there are a ton of digital firms (Sapient, Razorfish, etc.) that are the digital AOR for large multi-tiered clients. But this article is meant to speak to smaller firms looking to create long-term relationships with agencies and clients that would be unique to them.
Look At An Agency As It Looks At Its Clients
First off let the agency know that you’re here as a campaign “partner” for their client. You’re here to listen, react and advise as they feather in their digital media, web sites and social media. You must also make the agency understand that the digital industry allows for incredible measurement and campaign optimization, therefore your services are needed as long as the campaign is active.
Make sure that they know you should:
- Engage the media mix.
- Be aggressive, b-ee aggressive.
- Launch online ads progressively over the course of the campaign.
- Run two solid campaigns and a wild card too keep your numbers in check. With that said, if the client chooses to use a third party company to aggregate and assess the campaign analytics, be sure you that you have your own set for comparison.
- Technology will change over the life of the campaign. Come back to the agency with additions, strategies and progressive thinking.
- Be there as a trusted vendor, advisor and creative collaborator when the agency starts to rethink the next (or extension) campaign.
If you’re ready for it, put some skin in the game. Newer models show agencies and digital shops are making more money when the results of their products pay them.
Clients Need To Know That You’re Thinking For Them
The same rules apply if your digital firm has acquired a piece of new business and intends to keep that piece of business as long as possible. You got the client, listen and give them everything they ask for – plus you. You sold them you, not a production house – YOU. This is what is going to truly separate your business from the X-number of shops in town doing the same thing. For some shops it’s search engine optimization, others wiz-bang Adobe Flash sites and now social media services are becoming the expectation. Regardless, you need to bring what you do best and then actively present new and credible thinking to the work you are developing beyond what was asked.
Nothing says you know a client like becoming an expert in their industry. Make it a point to actively look at their industry and compare it to the metrics you have for them. More often than not you won’t have to talk them into doing something new if they know that their competitors have launched, or are looking at, a new technology. Make an extra effort if you’re engaged in social media development to give them audience feedback from twitter, forums, commenting and related digital “chatter”. There are plenty of great services such as Radian6, Hubspot, CoComment, Sentiment Metrics (Europe, Middle East and India) or TruCast, but remember these services are not free, nor are all clients interested. A lot of what clients want to hear from their metrics can be done for free with:
Most web sites are on a two-year version cycle. Knowing this you can begin to anticipate how you would service your clients’ needs within the given version of a campaign or web site. Remember to start initiating thought for (a minimum of six months prior) the next web site, upcoming technologies and best. Most of all how your firm reacts your clients business will be key in maintaining it. Great relationships start when you come to the client with great thinking before the client asks you to.
A.E. must stand for “Attention Expert”
Long-term relationships live and die with the Executive (AE). Yes, and AE should be aggressive. Yes, an AE should be attentive. Yes, and AE should have a well-rounded knowledge of all the departments and their respective services (cannot stress this enough). But most of all an AE must be able to create a [real] relationship with the clients; the client must believe that you are on their side, as a confidant, strategist, creator and friend. Put someone smart and likeable in that role before you put someone that fills a suit.
A lot of people say “well they’re a great AE but they don’t really understand the digital side of the agency.” While your AE needs to know what services you have but should not be expected to know how they are done. All the AE needs to do is nurture that client and have the right people answer the questions that they cannot. And for God’s sake don’t empower anyone to quote on the fly for services they don’t understand. Simply tell the client that it will be address as fast as possible – and do it. I see more business lost because people are simply not attacking leads that where asked for.
*A digital or new media agency is a business that delivers services for the creative and technical development of Internet based and social media-based products.