How can I trust you with my money? An observation of the Agency/Client effectiveness relationship
It could be argued that communication is the distillation of thoughts into a sensory experience.
Encouraging the individual to respond to the experience in the way we want is the key to ‘good’ communications, and if we are successful in doing this then there is a value that can be attributed to the effort that went in to achieving the outcome.
We are all in the business of earning money from our time and ideas so the purchaser of that time has an expectation that the ideas will deliver the result they seek. The creator will guide the purchaser to support those ideas but there is always an undisclosed element of trust. This can lead to conflict, because how can the purchaser know that the investment they make in the creator’s ideas will produce the intended result?
The DBA organised a workshop session yesterday to members looking to understand the intricacies of the Agency-Client working relationship. Under the title “Build better client relationships, Produce better work” the consultant David Meikle presented an intensive half-day session. He challenged our pre-conceived ideas about how we respond to clients requirements and manage the relationship on a shared agenda rather than the common expectation that it is always one sided.
David took us through a series of models to illustrate his views. Using a variation of the Boston Matrix he contended that it is possible to nurture a more realistic supplier –customer relationship if it is presented as a joint partnership between both parties. An understanding based on trust that maximises everyone’s needs without the issue of cost compromising creativity or value for money.
David explained the ‘zero sum game’ model, much used in Procurement circles. This was highly illuminating because it encouraged us to recognise that the impact of one side winning at the expense of the other is not always the outcome, and equilibrium can be attained. He also unpicked buying behaviours, the measurement of ROI and selling strategies- the importance of the hierarchy of needs that a client expects of its agency, and the significance of talent in the determination of value.
While there is a tendency in agencies to manage their client relationships in the same old way it is good to question ways of working- those agencies that are locked into partnerships with clients that contribute more than 30% of turnover are vulnerable to forces beyond their control;- they have to keep feeding the monster before it turns around to bite them.
Alternatively can agencies giving their best work to clients that carp on about cost or timing, much of which can be attributed to issues caused by deadline slippage? How does an agency draw all these threads together and influence the thinking of a shortsighted client that simply can’t be bothered to change?
I would argue that agencies that recognise the importance of good working practices are in a better place as far as managing the multitude of layers and personalities that they interact with. If we follow David’s example and collaborate with clients to develop a strategic approach to their brand communications then there are winners all round. The watchword becomes effectiveness rather than trust.
Though it may seem unnecessary and too prescriptive, those agencies that take their reporting processes seriously are in better shape than those that strive for that feel good experience with clients based on a naïve and nebulous expectation.
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