March 12, 2015

A Prescription for Strong Client/Agency Relationships

Advice for a strong client/agency relationshipWhether you’re the old pro bringing in a new client or you’re the newbie at your agency, you quickly realize how important relationships are. How do you build trust quickly? And how do you sustain and strengthen the client/agency relationship? Who better to ask than ab+c’s CEO John Hawkins and Director of Client Services Mike Gallagher? John and Mike have been working in the wonderful world of advertising for more than 60 years combined. Together they prescribed four simple steps to build strong, long-lasting client relationships:

Be proactive.

Or as John says, “Over-service the hell out of them.” Don’t wait to be prompted — bring the client new ideas before they ask. Show them industry trends or new ways to reach their audience. Ask questions: What are the three biggest projects coming up this year? How did that new campaign go? Are you happy with our work? Show the client that you’re not just a vendor, you’re a partner — you have a vested interest in their success.

Do your research.

Immerse yourself in the client’s business. Read industry publications and find information to bring to the client. “Do your homework, be smart, and be able to speak articulately about what is going on in the marketplace,” advises Mike. “Know what they have done in the past and learn what their business is all about.” What do they sell? Whom do they sell to? Is there a need in the marketplace? “When you’re an account executive, you’re right on the front line,” adds Mike. “You need to step up and do something noticeable and valuable, and you can do that by gaining as much information about the client’s business and their market as possible.”

Be a team player.

Sure, you’re an account executive, but do you know everything about all of your agency’s services? If, for example, you have a public relations plan and don’t know all you need to know about executing it, bring in a member of the PR team. And let your client know you’ve brought in an expert — you have a plan that you and your PR pro think will really work, and you’re going to let the expert present the idea while you provide support. “Count on the whizzes in the other departments,” says John. “They’re looking for you to manage the account. So use other people, and if you have a question go around the agency and ask whomever is appropriate.”

But remember: You and the client are partners. Which means you have to be open to the client’s ideas. They know their business best, so when you come to them with an idea, don’t present it as a done deal. Include them in the process. They’ll be more receptive to a piece of creative or a marketing plan if they feel like they took part in its creation.

Be human.

Show your personality. Working with an advertising agency is supposed to be fun, not stressful. As an account executive, you need to relieve your client’s stress by managing their account. Of course, your relationship should always remain professional, but you want the client to see you as a friend. Visit your client. Meet face to face as much as possible. Sit down once in a while to have lunch and discuss your relationship. Clients understand you’re human, so if you mess up or if someone else makes a mistake, own up to it. Mike says, “People make mistakes. And you take responsibility for those mistakes — even when it wasn’t your responsibility. That’s part of your role. You create trust and respect when you show you’re a stand-up person.”

You heard it from the pros: Be proactive instead of just reactive. Immerse yourself in your client’s business, Be a team player. And be a real person. You’ll be the kind of AE who can develop strong and long-lasting client relationships. And, hey, you could even make a new friend!

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