Discussions on the 'why' of clients arise every now and then but I think the frequency of said discussions has risen within our agency lately. And I'm talking about clients and prospects alike. Seth's post on The Promiscuity Paradox got me thinking: when do you drop clients or draw out of a pitch? He takes the PR world as an example:
The temptation is to grow the business. To take on new clients. To do the PR magic for an ever larger group of people.
Here's the problem: the people who most want to be your clients are the people you should least want to represent. As you promote the unpromotable, the permission you have to talk to the media doesn't go up, it goes down. Better to be the agency that only represents bestselling authors than to be the biggest agency.
As we're trying to futureproof (not that such a thing is possible) the agency (and I'm pleased to say we're moving ahead with a lot of things), questions on the value (both creative and monetary) of different clients inevitably come up.
So, when do you drop a client or a prospect? When do you decide 'it's not for you'? So far, I've come across several reasons:
- A lack of involvement from senior levels (up until the last minute, where they decide to blow everything of), if you don't have enough buy-in, stay out of it.
- An exagerated focus on the core message, if they already know what they want to say and are not prepared to discuss relevance for the consumer, forget about it.
- A lack of respect for the work and thinking that's produced, if they don't appreciate the value of an idea or the effort that goes in the production, butt out. People who are incapable of appreciating ideas will be disappointed in the long run and fire you.
I do believe you can work on these points though, but it should be a cooperative effort with a determination on some short term results, either in the cooperation between the client and the agency or in the work produced.
You can take clients through case studies and show them great work which yielded results. You can raise their aspirations by showing them what similar brands or competitors are doing. You can involve your own top level management and get them to sort it out (bring international forces if you've got a network)...
But there is one thing which cannot be remedied, and when you encounter it you should take action immediately. I daresay we let clients like these slip in the past, and it came back in our faces. It's impossible to deliver good work for them and they will ruin your reputation if you're not careful:
The one way corporate cultures where criticism is a way to promote yourself: the agency gets a shallow (and often incomplete) brief and is expected to solve the problem without further input. Upon presenting, everyone below the actual decision maker is trying to score by shooting at agency ideas , often using arguments and information that were not given in the brief.